Udayavni Special

Let’s talk about gay penguins: Munich zoo joins Pride week


Team Udayavani, Jul 14, 2019, 12:08 PM IST

Munich: Organisers of this year’s Gay Pride week in Munich have a group of rather wild partners — penguins, giraffes and lions at the city zoo — where tours are being run about same-sex love in the animal kingdom.

The Munich zoo has joined Pride week with a look into the intimate lives of animals, seeking to boost tolerance among humans.

“It is important for us to talk about” homosexuality in the animal kingdom and show that same-sex love is natural, said Munich zoo spokesman Dennis Spaeth, adding that Germany is seeing an increasing number of attacks on LGBTQI rights. At least 91 attacks on non-heterosexuals were recorded by the police last year.

The first stop on the Pride tour is the giraffes. “ In some groups, 90% of the acts observed are in fact homosexual in nature,” explained biologist Guenter Strauss.

Lifetime partners

There is also a male couple of Humboldt penguins squatting together from other, mixed pairs. “Penguins conduct homosexual relationships that can last a whole lifetime, something very rare in the animal kingdom,” said Mr. Strauss.

Same-sex love among animals was a taboo for scientists for a long time, says Mr. Strauss

“On one expedition to the South Pole at the start of the 20th century, a doctor saw males (penguins) copulating — but he left out the pages dealing with the behaviour when he published the results of his research,” he said. The pages were only rediscovered “eight or nine years ago” in a library in Britain, the biologist added.

In fact, hundreds of animal species, from elephants to snakes and birds, display homosexual behaviour. At least 8% of sexual acts among lions are homosexual.

But unlike most humans, the sexual preference of our four-legged or feathered friends is often quite fluid.

“Among people, we grow up with a specific sexual orientation. That’s often not true for animals,” said Strauss.

“They are in fact bisexual. They adopt certain sexual behaviour at specific moments.”

One case in point are lions, and the zoo’s male big cat greets the group with a loud roar. “Eight per cent of sex acts among lions are homosexual. As for lionesses, they only show lesbian behaviour when they’re kept in captivity,” he explained.

London Zoo, for its contribution to Pride week, mounted a banner above its penguin beach, declaring: “Some penguins are gay. Get over it,” a nod to a human anti-homophobic campaign.

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