Animals’ Sex Lives Spotlighted in Valentine’s Day Tour at Safari West

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Courtesy of Will Bucquoy

How do porcupines make love?

“Very carefully,” guide Leslie Thalman told a group of visitors during the Valentine’s Day “Wild Jungle Love” Tour at Safari West, an African-themed Santa Rosa wildlife preserve, on Sunday.

The sex lives of cheetahs, zebras, giraffes and other critters at the 400-acre park took center stage on the tour. The event Saturday and Sunday was the first stage of Safari West’s reopening as pandemic restrictions ease.

“That’s submissive behavior,” Thalman said as a female ostrich approached the group’s vehicle, head down, wings at half-mast. “If our vehicle was a male ostrich, she would lie down and let the male breed her,” the guide added.

“So the ostrich is hitting on us?”, asked visitor Rebecca Auerbach of Concord.

“In a dysfunctional way, yes,” Thalman answered, to laughter from the group.

Dubbed “the Sonoma Serengeti,” the preserve’s forest, grassland and warm weather resemble the savannas of Africa. It was founded by Peter and Nancy Lang in 1993.

Closed to help slow the spread of Covid-19, Safari West will open full time for guests booking tours Feb. 27. The park’s “glamping” tents reopen March 1.

The “Wild Jungle Love” tour included a walk and a ride on a vintage yellow Dodge Power Wagon M37. The vehicle is open-air, and the masked passengers are separated by plexiglass partitions. The facility has implemented a number of other safety measures as well.

“We feel safe, absolutely,” said Rachel Smith of San Rafael, who took the tour with her husband, Larry.

“We came because it’s our anniversary,” and the Valentine’s Day tour seemed apropos, Smith said.

Turns out that the old joke about porcupines is accurate. As the group oohed and aahed over a pair of porcupines, Thalman noted, “The bundle of white needles at the tail moves aside” at the critical moment.

“He very gingerly mounts her. There has to be a lot of cooperation,” which would seem to bode well for the female porcupine in more ways than one.

Male giraffes have an even harder time.

“They are teetering,” during mating and can easily be dislodged, Thalman said.

Worse yet is what the giraffe must go through just to get the party started.

“He sticks his nose in her urine to learn if she is in heat,” Thalman said.

This does not compare well with such expedients as playing music by Usher, drawing a bubble bath or even streaming a rom-com. Obviously, human males have it easy.

Despite the difficulty, one proud Safari West male giraffe, Kubwa, obviously persevered; his son, the facility’s 30th baby giraffe, as yet unnamed, was born Saturday.

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