All in the Family

The animals at the Zoo come in all shapes and sizes, colors and textures. Some of them prefer to live a solitary life, while others enjoy the company of several other animals in their same species. But did you know that not every animal group is created equally? Different animals have some pretty creative names for the collective group, and these are the coolest, strangest and funniest family names you can hear in the Animal Kingdom and find at the Virginia Zoo.

Venture past the plaza and onward to Asia – Trail of the Tiger, but don’t turn your back to the two Malayan tiger teens, Stubbley and Osceola; they might ambush you at the glass! While tigers are typically solitary, siblings can often stick together for the first several years of their lives, creating an ambush of tigers – a perfect name for the group of very sneaky big cats.

In Asia – Trail of the Tiger, there are two different species of bears. The sun bears, Palu and Suntil, can be found near the orangutan exhibits, while moon bear brothers Thai and Chai can be found across from the tapir exhibit. No matter the species, a group of bears is called a sleuth. All bears are very good investigators, and always on the hunt for their next snack, making their family name perfect for them.


After leaving Asia, if you continue toward the Animal Wellness Campus, don’t hesitate to stop by the ZooLive! stage for the seasonal presentation. Here you’ll meet one or several of our animal ambassadors, including our pair of macaws, which are members of the parrot family. Billie Jean and Big Red are part of a group of parrots, otherwise known as a pandemonium! Pandemonium means “noisy” and when the macaws are on stage in front of their favorite people, they enjoy talking, mimicking other animal sounds and dancing to music. It’s hard not to have a good time with that pandemonium!

Another type of bird you may be able to learn about at the stage is one of our two owl species. Carson the Eurasian eagle owl and Errol the Screech owl both belong to families of owls called parliaments. Owls are considered to be wise, like members of a political parliament.


In Africa – Okavango Delta, many animal species can be found in larger groups, whether of the same species or mixed in with herds of other animals. Giraffes can be found in towers, but not the tall structures that may come to mind. A group of giraffes is called a tower after the animals’ height, which towers over the Serengeti and other animals below.

Towers of giraffes can often be found near groups of zebras, also known as dazzles. This family name may make the least sense in the animal kingdom, and no one is exactly sure why a group of zebras is called a dazzle. The best guess is that a group of zebras may confuse their predators because their pattern might make it difficult to target individual zebras within a large dazzle.

Further along in Africa are the Zoo’s three Southern white rhinos – male Sibindi and sisters Bora and Zina. The trio make up a group of rhinos, which is called a crash. The name comes from their terrible eyesight, but excellent hearing. When they feel threatened, rhinos will run top speed towards their threat, potentially crashing through whatever they are targeting. They may not be able to see their threat, but they can hear its location well enough to take charge.

On the other side of the Zoo is the newest exhibit, the World of Reptiles and Friends. Here you can not only find tons of reptiles, but amphibians and a few mammals as well. The main attraction is double the trouble in the Crocodile Marsh. Two feisty female Siamese crocodiles can be found in a bask, floating in the water in their exhibit. In the wild, crocodiles are usually found basking in the sun. The Zoo hopes to have a third, male crocodile join the bask of crocodiles within the next few years to kick-start a breeding program.

If you stop by the Frog Lab you will see several armies of frogs. That’s right, a group of those tiny, slimy creatures is called an army. While the exact reasoning behind their family name isn’t certain, nearly one-third of all amphibian species are threatened with extinction. Maybe they’re in armies so they can fight extinction? You can join the fight too by donating to conservation efforts.


While these are only some of the dozens of unique animal names, there are many more that you can find out on your own!