ST. LOUIS—Describing the behavior as bizarre yet captivating, dozens of visitors to the Saint Louis Zoo reportedly looked on in fascination Saturday as the ice cream shop’s staff engaged in their unique mating rituals.
According to eyewitnesses, the four males housed in the park’s Polar Bear Cafe enclosure performed an elaborate routine of posturing and vocalizations, at points engaging in combative clashes with one another in an effort to win procreative rights over their two young and fertile female counterparts.
“There was a real big one by the front glass who was definitely the alpha male, and you could see he was trying to assert his dominance in front of the females,” said onlooker Audrey Trumbull, describing a hulking 250-pound specimen known to zoo personnel as “Derek,” who is reportedly identifiable by his broad forelimbs and distinctive black wraparound Oakley sunglasses. “I think he was trying to show that he would be a healthy mate, because he kept puffing out his chest and making these loud, frequent roars about his workout routine while he scooped out ice cream.”
“And it looked like the little yellow-haired one was really receptive, because she responded with these instinctive, chirping giggles every time he called out to her,” Trumbull added. “It definitely seemed like they were going to pair off and mate, probably when their shift ended at five.”
Visitors stated that a second male with a thick brown mane challenged the alpha male numerous times, with both attempting to call attention to their physical strength by picking up 10-gallon tubs of sorbet and bringing in large stacks of waffle cones from the back. Additionally, witnesses noted that the two males sought to entice potential mates by conspicuously displaying the colorful markings on their upper arms, which reportedly depicted a tiger in profile and the Guns N’ Roses insignia.
According to sources, both the yellow-haired female and a shorter, rounder female engaged in the courtship ritual as well. Both are said to have performed a choreographed mating dance in which they casually strode in front of the males and drew emphasis to their prominent mammary glands, which they made sure were partially visible beneath their cotton v-neck outer coats.
Sources noted, however, that the females showed no interest in the enclosure’s other male, who was reportedly slower moving and, by many accounts, appeared to be sick.
“I didn’t even notice it at first, but there was a shy juvenile with markings all over his face who stayed way in the back,” said visitor Thomas Gittner, 40, noting that the small male clearly hadn’t reached full maturity yet. “He very tentatively tried to come up to the front counter once, but the females didn’t pay any attention to him and then the big one assumed a threatening stance, so he just scampered off to the back again and hid behind the soft serve machine. Poor little guy.”
Park officials confirmed that such courtship rituals are a common sight among the zoo’s populations of food service workers during the summer months, noting that the Polar Bear Cafe pen had produced two offspring in its 14 years as a park attraction. In addition, zoo personnel stated that a male and a female at the popular funnel cake enclosure had already formed a pair bond this season and had been relocated to a specialized apartment mating facility nearby.
While most visitors said they were riveted by the courtship behavior, several objected to the creatures’ captivity in a small, artificial stall, with many arguing that the staff members should be performing their mating rituals out in their natural habitat of sports bars and tailgate parties “where they belong.”
“It’s just sad to think that these poor ice cream shop staffers are cramped in that little confined space all day long,” said 23-year-old park visitor Ashley Maloney, stating that the creatures were “uncomfortable” to watch. “It’s no wonder half of them clearly had aggression problems and the other half were so unresponsive and despondent they barely even moved around inside their enclosure. It’s awful.”
“At one point, the older one looked right at me and I stared into his glazed, lifeless eyes,” Maloney added. “This is why the zoo depresses me.”