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‘It’s time to explore homosexuality in animals’

When it emerged this week that our very own Brett Mills, head of FTM, had raised controversy over his criticism of wildlife documentaries and, in his opinion, the inaccurate portrayal of homosexuality, it coloured me intrigued.

Penguins

First of all I had never really thought about the complexities of animal relationships in any great detail. Of course I was not a stranger to domestic pets going at it any which way they can. It is certainly not uncommon to see animals of the same sex engaging in, erm … sexual relations, but then it’s also not uncommon for domestic pets to go for inanimate objects. In fact I recently watched a video on YouTube of a tortoise humping a Croc.

Until recently I had always understood that we were the only animals to have sex for pleasure and that to other animals, sex was simply a process in the system to carry on the species, but perhaps it was narrow-minded of me to think so. In fact it has been proven that both dolphins and bonobo monkeys have sex for pleasure.

Should the affections of other animals really be a serious consideration? In the light of the recently legalised same-sex marriages, perhaps we should look further into the wide array of same-sex relations which exist in the wild.

Some argue that showing same-sex relationships in animals in wildlife documentaries would confuse children about the “normality” of relationships, but what is the definition of normal? Children need to know that homosexuality is a natural thing and what better way of expressing this than the representation of gay animals across the broad realm of the animal kingdom? Also, it has often been found that children are more accepting of different sexualities than adults.

Inca and Rayas are a gay couple that have recently adopted a child of their own. After six years of building a nest together and facing the heartbreak when no egg came along, the zookeepers decided to give them an abandoned egg to care for.

Oh, did I mention that Inca and Rayas are penguins? This is not the first case of homosexuality in penguins, nor is it the first case of adoptive, gay penguin parents. Two males called Roy and Silo adopted an egg at Central Park Zoo in 1999. There was also the case of two male African penguins Buddy and Pedro. However as African penguins are an endangered species, zookeepers decided to put them in separate enclosures to encourage them to mate with female partners.

So should we be looking in greater detail into the particulars of animal relationships? I probably don’t know enough zoology to have a well-considered opinion. But as acceptance of all kinds of human relationships grows, equivalents in the animal world should not be ignored.

19/02/2013

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Zoe Jones


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