Zoo rents out animals as VIP guests for on-site events

  • Animals
  • Thursday, 17 May 2018

Kristina Geiger and Daniel Sperling at their wedding reception at Como Zoo with Stefon the sloth. Photo: TNS

Daniel Sperling was expecting a very special guest at his wedding last September. Just days before the big event though, the star attendee hit a certain snag.

Minneapolis, Minnesota resident Sperling and his fiancee, Kristina Geiger, were getting married at Como Zoo in St Paul, right next to the Marjorie McNeely Conservatory. As part of the event rental, they requested the presence of Stefano, an adorable two-toed sloth.

There was just one problem: “Sloths only poop once a week,” Sperling explained. “A day or two before that, it’s extremely irritable and you’re not supposed to go near it.” Thankfully, Stefano did his business just in time. “We’re glad it worked out for him,” Sperling said, laughing.

Stefano is just one of many “animal ambassadors” available for on-site events at Como Zoo. Armadillos, parrots, snakes, turtles and a giant cockroach are also in the programme, designed to educate event-goers while sweetening the deal for private rentals.

Booking an animal ambassador costs an extra US$250 (RM990) per hour. “We have a lot of great wedding stories,” said education and conservation curator Susie Van Blaircom. “It’s something fun for the guests, something new and unique.”

With his cute little tuxedo, Cupid the South African penguin is a popular option for nuptials.

Wedding guests can stop by to meet these ambassadors, Van Blaircom said, with an education specialist standing by to answer any questions. The creatures “just kind of hang out,” she said. “They don’t walk around; they are definitely in a restricted area.”

Stefano the sloth, for example, came to the Sperling reception with a rope (to keep visitors at a safe distance) and a portable tree. “It didn’t do much, just kind of sat there and sometimes moved its arm,” Sperling said. “People liked taking their pictures with it.”

After her engagement, Danica Alvarez knew she wanted to get married at the zoo. “I spent a lot of time there growing up,” she said. “And my fiance and I actually got engaged there,” right next to that romantic glass conservatory.

The Northfield resident surprised everyone – even herself – by requesting a fruit bat for the occasion. “Fruit bats were not something we thought of right away,” Alvarez said. “It’s kind of a different animal. We wanted something really unique.”

Even though confined to a glass cage, the creature seemed to enjoy himself, she said. “Fruit bats are pretty social. They like attending events.” – Tribune News Service/Christopher Shea

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