I love you my deer - zoo plans nuptials with a twist
A three-year, inter-species love story at a zoo in Kunming, the capital of Yunnan province, will culminate in a Valentine's Day wedding ceremony tomorrow.
Changmao, a love-struck ram, has been mating with a chital deer named Chunzi since late 2010. They have become inseparable and Yunnan Zoo decided to hold a wedding so they can spend the rest of their days together.
The affair began in the winter of 2009 when Changmao, a lamb just one month old, moved into the deer zone and started following Chunzi, then a yearling, around.
'Normally a chital deer would only mate while in season,' zoo spokeswoman Li Li said. 'But this couple mate nearly every day. We believe they don't do that for breeding but for love.'
There are six chital deer in the zone, three of each sex, and one ram and one ewe. Chunzi keeps her distance from the male deer but stays close to Changmao.
They became celebrities after their love story circulated online and seem unperturbed by tourists who crowd in front of their enclosure to photograph the odd couple.
The zoo will print 500 commemorative tickets and 200 limited-edition T-shirts for their wedding. Changmao and Chunzi will stand on the two sides of a wall and walk through a gate together, which the zoo says will represent the breaking of the traditional view of love. They will share a carrot at the end.
'We want people to understand that love is not limited to a traditional view but has varieties,' Li said. The couple would stay in the deer zone after their 'marriage'.
The zoo has held animal weddings before, but this will be the first involving different species.
'We started to sell the commemorative tickets on Monday and some have already been bought,' Li said.
Wildlife experts say relationships between different species often occur in captive-bred gregarious animals, and could be caused by a variety of reasons, including the lack of a mate of the same species in season.
Zhang Jinshuo, of the Institute of Zoology at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, said ethics only worried humans.
'Animals are controlled by their own nature, and don't have any sense of love,' he said.