Theirs was a forbidden love. Unnatural, some said.
But Changmao the ram and Chunzi the deer refused to be kept apart — and now the unlikely pair will be together forever, at least according to a zoo in southwestern China that wants to cash in on their love story with a Valentine's Day "wedding."
Changmao, a two-year-old ram, and Chunzi, a three-year-old doe, had been cohabitating at the zoo for more than a year, it was reported in December.
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Chunzi, whose name means "pure," was the "prettiest deer" at the zoo. And Changmao the ram, whose name means "long hair," had "fascinated" Chunzi since she was young, China Daily "reported" at the time.
Their story went viral on Chinese TV and on Weibo, China's equivalent of Twitter, with graphic photos showing the pair in action.
But when Changmao cheated on Chunzi with the only female sheep at the zoo, fathering a lamb out of wedlock, zoo officials decided that the ram and doe should be separated and put with their own kind.
Zookeepers hoped that Changmao would care for his new same-species mate and lamb, but instead he became violent, attacking them with his horns and banging on a fence that separated him from Chunzi. The couple was quickly reunited.
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Ahead of the Valentine's Day wedding stunt, the zoo has sold at least 500 tickets at 66 yuan ($10) a piece.
The animals will be clad in "wedding clothes," which are pretty much guaranteed to be ridiculous (see also: chimpanzee wedding at Chinese zoo). They will tie the knot by eating carrots, according to CNS.
Visitors will be able to buy limited-edition commemorative T-shirts from the Changmao and Chunzi collection.
Xinhua, the state-run news agency, helpfully pointed out that while the ram and deer mate frequently, "experts say the couple are unlikely to produce any offspring."
Wang Dajun, an expert at Peking University, advised people not to anthropomorphize the ram and deer with wedding pictures or a wedding ceremony, explaining that the animals will not appreciate such traditions as humans do.
"Leaving them alone is the best choice," Wang told Xinhua.