Over 200 guests packed into the Aquarium’s Great Hall on Thursday, February 7. Greeted by a sampling of “aphrodisiac” oysters from Raw 167, chocolate covered strawberries and champagne, the stage was set for a very special speaker, Ron Magill. Ron Magill has had quite a career; he’s been with Zoo Miami for over 40 years, he has a recurring segment on the Dan Lebatard Show on ESPN and makes frequent appearances on Good Morning America and The Today Show. If he looks familiar, it’s because you’ve probably seen him on TV reporting on animal welfare and hurricane preparations at Zoo Miami. He also recently launched a Spanish television program called Mundo Salvaje con Ron Magill.
Mating rituals are complex, humorous and sometimes shocking. Ron’s anthropomorphic language compared animal rituals to human experiences and allowed for a conversation about a topic that is often uncomfortable: how do animals do it?
During his career as a wildlife researcher and Nikon Ambassador, Ron has had a front-row seat observing animals, both in the wild and in human care. He’s learned a lot!
Often times, female animals are the decision makers. From frogs that will listen for proper pitch in a male’s call, to frigate birds that will look for the largest, most colorful throat inflation display — it’s all usually up to the female. Females may still turn a male down even after the male performs a complex courtship dance! Even this instinctually ingrained ritual doesn’t guarantee a green light for mating.
Take our local alligators for example. Often classified as dangerous top predators, alligators and crocodiles have a seemingly subdued courtship. Males will court females with an arched back, bellowing under the water. The vibrations cause the surface water to shake causing water droplets to shoot up like a fountain. Females will select the male based on his display.
Male and female animals are equipped with body parts and behaviors that help to make mating successful. After all, the goal is to produce offspring. Big cats like tigers and lions convey messages about fertility through urine scents and pheromones. A circle of guano, or poop, around a blue-footed booby nest relays genetic information about the parents to the chick. Parents will continue to care for chicks that remain in the “circle of protection”.
Ron perfectly reenacted the mating groans, growls and screams from animals like lions, camels and tortoises Yes, even tortoises are known to vocalize during copulation! No anatomy question was left unanswered with his high-quality photographs.
Ron reminded the crowd that Zoos and Aquariums are “an insurance policy against a very uncertain future in the wild.” Through participation in Species Survival Plan Programs, facilities accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, like the South Carolina Aquarium and Zoo Miami, are able to work together to ensure that these species will be around in the future. Animals are paired based on genetic make-up, current wild population status and facility accommodations. Today, there are over 500 Species Survival Programs.
Thank you to our sponsors, Mary and Mason Holland, Chris Kauker of Ameriprise Financial, Zoo Miami and 167 Raw for making this evening possible. To learn more about supporting next season’s lectures, please contact Stephanie Gabosch at firstname.lastname@example.org. Be sure to follow Ron’s adventures on social media.
Don’t forget to purchase your tickets for the 2019 Holland Lifelong Learning Finale, World of Wonder: What Lies Beneath, featuring ocean conservationist Fabien Cousteau on March 22 at 6 pm.