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Whipsnade Zoo residents get Valentines treats

1 WZ Monkeys Valentine's 2019-2

Published by Dan Gooding at 1:01pm 14th February 2019. (Updated at 1:08pm 14th February 2019)

Both monkeys and tigers at Whipsnade Zoo near Tring got in on the Valentines love this week.

Keepers prepared some treats for Squirrel Monkeys, which they got involved with straight away.

They can be seen plucking the sweet potato from Valentines gift bags.

2 WZ Monkeys Valentine's 2019-5

Meanwhile, it's a 'paper' anniversary for two of the zoo's tigers.

Amur tiger couple Naya and Botzman are celebrating their first year together with a giant, pink cardboard heart - just in time for Valentine's Day.

Eight-year-old Amur tigress and her seven-year-old mate Botzman got to investigate the colourful cardboard heart, which was been covered in a range of fascinating smells like perfume, blood and catnip.

While these scents might not be a human's idea of an appetising anniversary gift, to a tiger they are the makings of an exciting date, designed to encourage their natural behaviours.

The pair were introduced a year ago, when Naya moved from France to join 180kg (28 stone) male tiger Botzman at the UK's largest Zoo as part of the European Endangered Species Programme (EEP).

The tigers immediately hit it off and just four months after their pairing had welcomed cubs - helping to boost the population of Amur tigers.

ZSL Whipsnade Zoo team leader, Donovan Glyn said:

"Like all Amur tigers, Naya and Botzman are curious creatures, so we're always creating new sights and smells for them to explore. As it's almost Valentine's Day, and they have been together for a year, we thought a tiger-y twist on the 'paper' anniversary gift would be a fun, romantic treat.

"Since getting a babysitter is not an option for Naya and Botzman, their three eight-month-old cubs, Dmitri, Makari and Czar may well interrupt their date. But that's the joys of parenting!"

Amur tigers (Panthera tigris altaica) are classified as Endangered by the IUCN Red List of Endangered Species.

Thanks to the conservation efforts of organisations like ZSL (Zoological Society of London), which works with Amur tigers in the Russian Far East, there are now an estimated 500 Amur tigers left in the wild, ten times the number that were estimated to exist in the 1940s.

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