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A Zoo love story: From first date to ‘I Do’ at the Central Florida Zoo

Tuesday, February 13, 2024

A Zoo love story: From first date to ‘I Do’ at the Central Florida Zoo

From magical encounters with animals like giraffes and rhinos to hidden spots in botanical gardens, you can find a lot at the Central Florida Zoo. You might even find love.

That’s how it happened for Central Florida couple Madison Yost and Will Fausnaugh. The two met working at Animal Kingdom. One day—it happened to be Valentine’s Day 2021—Madison had to have her car fixed. Rather than sit and wait, Will offered to pick her up. Madison was playing Zoo Tycoon to pass the time when Will mentioned going to a real zoo.

Working at Animal Kingdom, both knew about each other’s love of animals. Madison found hers at the Columbus Zoo’s camp growing up, and Will found his because he spent a lot of time in nature with his mom, who worked for Maryland’s State Parks.

Downplaying the romantic day, the two headed to the Central Florida Zoo & Botanical Gardens for their first date. They spent hours there watching the bears, the giraffes, and of course, PJ, the Greater one-horned rhino.

At the end, the first peek at what was to come: They bought an Annual Pass together.

“That was the first little piece of commitment, was the Annual Pass,” Madison said.

Despite the great start, both were a little hesitant to dive into a relationship. Their friends and family, however, weren’t fooled. When Madison told her mom and sister about the date, they knew.

“You went to a zoo with him and you’re not sure he’s the one?” her sister texted.

The two eventually came around, and the rest is history. They got engaged on a trip to Zimbabwe.

When it came time to plan the wedding, they considered many venues, but the answer was obvious after touring several with their families.

“They looked at us both after and said, ‘You have to do the Zoo,’” Madison said.

The big day is just a few weeks away, on March 9, 2024. They have many plans for the event, but their love of animals and conservation will be at its heart.

“At our core, just as individuals, we’re both conservation educators. That’s what we were doing when we met each other,” Will said. “Using this as an avenue to teach the people we love the most about the animals we love the most is going to be really special, too.”

They plan to have photos they’ve taken of animals on the tables, as well as animal facts. The two always enjoy learning more about the Zoo and its conservation efforts when they visit, and they love bringing friends and family to the Zoo as well.

That love and their love of the Zoo is something that has been part of their relationship from that first Valentine’s Day—and it will continue after the “I Dos”.

“We’ve been to some of the most amazing zoos on the planet. We’ve been out in the bush in Zimbabwe and Botswana on a safari for such a long time,” Will said. “And this is the zoo we keep coming back to. The Central Florida Zoo does an amazing job. We love this place, and we’re really lucky to get married here.”

Photo courtesy: Brandon Sallinger Photography 

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