Valentine’s Day at the zoo

There is nothing more a single male photographer wants to do than to shoot a Valentine’s Day assignment. They can be full of moments or cliches.

I was lucky to be sent to photograph animals celebrating the holiday (and I must remind you that we are a family-friendly newspaper).


Isaac Ewing, 1, and his mother, Sarah Ewing, watch a spider monkey enjoy a a Valentine's Day treat at the Henry Doorly Zoo on February 14, 2012.


The Henry Doorly Zoo wrapped up gifts and left left them in animal habitats Tuesday. Most of packages contained treats.

I went to the Desert Dome and stopped by the meerkat exhibit, where they barely seemed to notice the packages.  Soon after I started taking photos, furry little creatures stood on their hind legs and began a starting contest. It could have made for a cute photo, but it doesn’t illustrate the story very well at all.

A meerkat investigates a Valentine's Day present left by employees at the Henry Doorly Zoo on February 14, 2012.


Next I ventured into the gorilla exhibit to watch the employees deliver the treats to the primates. Workers were on an upper level pushing treats through a wire mesh. One of the western lowland gorillas, Bambio, climbed up on top to get his treat hand-delivered. It didn’t stop there: He wanted all the treats and tried to intercept them all. I’m sure we all know people like that.

Zoo employee Anne Swales gives Bambio, a western lowland gorilla, a heart-shaped cookie as a Valentine's Day treat.


In the orangutan habitat, the creatures were treated with frozen Kool-Aid in the shape of a heart. When Wgasa, a Bornean orangutan, picked one up and started to suck on it, I thought of the old saying “Eat your heart out.”

Wgasa, a Bornean orangutan, enjoys a heart-shaped frozen treat on Valentine's Day.


The photos on these types of assignments that tend to garner the most attention are ones that anthropomorphize the subjects. But many of the concepts we emotionally assign to the subjects generally have no meaning to the animals.

Matt Hanke holds up his 2-year-old son, Simon, to get a better view of Wgasa as she enjoys a Valentine's Day treat.

To Wgasa, it’s more about having a sweat treat than a sweetheart.

Chris Machian

About Chris Machian

I was born in Omaha, graduated from the University of Nebraska at Omaha with a journalism degree in 2004 and have spent most of my life here. I was a photo intern with the Omaha World-Herald in 2003 and had various roles with the company before becoming a staff photographer. I love to shoot UNO hockey and last year placed video and still cameras inside the goal to provide our readers with another unique perspective. My goal is to use available technology in ways that help our readers understand the stories we cover. For instance, in 2011 I used Gigapan technology to provide a wide view of flooded areas while allowing users to zoom in on the smaller details. My love of this job extends beyond disasters and sporting events; I also enjoy covering the events that help define Omaha's cultural landscape.
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  1. Bonnie says:

    Great pictures Chris. I have always enjoyed your talent.

  2. Debbie says:

    Do you have a website where more of your photos can be viewed ? The zoo photos are awesome !!

  3. Chris Machian Chris Machian says:

    You can always view photos from all of our talented World-Herald staff here on Viewfinder, and don’t forget to become a fan of us on facebook too:

  4. Zoo Animals says:

    nice blog i like this blog thanks for sharing

  5. [...]  Machain, C. (2012, February 14). Valentine’s Day at the zoo | Viewfinder. Viewfinder | Photos and video from the staff of the Omaha World-Herald. Retrieved July 15, 2013, from [...]