Tag Archives: animal homosexuality

Penguin (Gay) Parenting: Lessons for Gay Adoption

A few months ago, the Toronto Zoo was in the news, taking flack for a decision to separate two male penguins who had formed a pair bond.

In China, the authorities at a zoo in northern China have taken the opposite approach.  When they saw that a male pair had been attempting to steal eggs, they took the obvious, rational, decision. They identified a chick in need of parents, and set up an adoption.

While zookeepers at the Toronto Zoo were quick to separate Buddy and Pedro for mating purposes, keepers at Harbin Polar Land embraced their eccentric penguins by not only giving them a same-sex wedding ceremony worthy of Leslie Knope but also providing them with their very own baby chick to care for.
Adam and Steve had a history of stealing eggs from more-traditional couples during hatching season. So when keepers noticed a mother of recently hatched twins struggling with her parenting duties, they decided to give Adam and Steve the baby they were looking for.
While it might seem, well, different for a penguin chick to have two male parents, in fact, all penguins are known to have natural instincts for parenting, as males and females equally share in the responsibility to incubate and care for their chicks, before and after they’re born. For this reason, keepers at Harbin Polar Land  
Read morenewsfeed.time.com
Ignore the “wedding” – that’s just an obvious, gimmicky PR stunt. There are more important lessons here.

First, there is the simple fact that same – sex pairing and sexual behaviours are common in all branches of the animal kingdom. The keepers at Toronto Zoo justified their decision by arguing that the two males had paired only because their were no females available, but this common explanation for animal homosexuality is false. The published scientific research makes it clear that while animal same – sex behaviour may be more common in the artificial conditions of captivity, it also occurs widely in purely natural conditions. (For some species, and for some animals, it may be more common than heterosexual mating).

The parenting impulse is common to all species, and is not restricted to opposite – sex couples. The Chinese penguins’ attempts to steal eggs has been widely observed among same – sex bird pairs of many species, just as many human couples, of any sexual orientation, may seek to adopt when they are unable to conceive themselves.
The Chinese zookeepers  “are confident that Adam and Steve’s chick will grow up to be just like its penguin peers”. They have good reason to be. The empirical evidence from the animal world is that the parenting abilities and success rates for same – sex couples are no worse than for opposite – sex couples, and sometimes better: exactly the same as the findings from empirical research on human gay and lesbian parents.
The commonly repeated argument around gay adoption that it should not be about the equal rights of gay parents, but about the best interests of the child, is sound. Only the usual conclusion is false. The best interests of the child require that s/he be placed with the best available adoptive parents, who just might happen to be a same-sex couple.
In northern China, one penguin chick’s mother was struggling to raise it. The best available adoptive parents were the pair named by the keepers Adam and Steve. Lucky chick, to have found suitable adoptive parents.
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The Saga of the Toronto Gay Penguins

In a bizarre move, a zoo is splitting up a male pair, to force them to breed.

Queer Politics for the Birds: The Saga of the Gay Penguins

Toronto’s zoo is splitting up a pair of same-gender penguins. These Happy Feet males, Pedro and Buddy — jokingly referred to as “Brokeback Iceberg” — have been nesting with each other for a year.
The reason for the boys’ split-up, a zoo official says, is because African penguins are an endangered species.
The pair has what’s known as a “social bond,” but it’s not necessarily a “sexual bond,” Tom Mason, the zoo’s curator of birds and invertebrates told the Associated Press.
“Penguins are so social they need that…company. And the group they came from was a bachelor group waiting for a chance to be paired up with females,” Mason stated. “They had paired up there, they came to us already paired, and it’s our job to be matchmakers to get them to go with some females.” 
The argument they have used to justify this, is the old one that they aren’t “really” queer, just doing it in the absence of females. This is nothing more than homophobia directed at the animal world, used to avoid facing the fact that sexual activities between members of the same biological sex are commonplace in nature – for some species, and for some individual animals, more common than the heterosexual kind.

Bruce Bagemihl, in Biological Exuberance, has described this avoidance strategy, and several others, in his book “Biological Exuberance” – together with accounts of the extensive scientific evidence now emerging to rebut them.

As scientists, the curators at Toronto zoo really should know better.

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Bisexual squid ‘can’t tell mates apart’ in dark waters – Telegraph

“An 18-year study of the Octopoteuthis deletron, a little-known squid which dwells a depth of 400 to 800m, found that males mate as often with their own gender as they do with females.
The difference between the sexes is so slight and meetings with fellow squid so rare that the amorous males are either unaware or unconcerned whether the object of their attention is female or not, US-based researchers said.
There is little light in the depths where the squid reside and the darkness of the water “cannot aid much in recognising potential mates,” they added.
Writing in the Royal Society Biology Letters journal, the scientists said the squid only have a single, brief reproductive period during their short lifespan and will mate with any partner they meet during this time regardless of its gender.”
-read more at The Telegraph
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Lifting the lid on animal sex

 “In his new book Hung Like an Argentine Duck, Australian paleontologist Dr John Long aims to bring the weird and wonderful world of animal sexuality to the masses.
But there are also some interesting insights on human sexuality to be extrapolated from the book, challenging puritanical notions of what is ‘normal’ and ‘natural’: namely, that homosexuality is some kind of man-made choice, and that humans are the only species to indulge in sex for pleasure.”
Indeed, once you’ve read Long’s passsages about dildo-wielding porcupines, bat blow jobs and necrophiliac snakes, you may be inclined to think we’re one of the tamer species in the animal kingdom.
“There isn’t any facet of human sexual behaviour that doesn’t already exist in the animal kingdom — the whole gamut of human sexual preference exists in animals in one form or another,” Long animatedly explained to the Star Observer.
“I must admit, a lot of it surprised me. We’re still learning new things all the time. I mention in the book that echidnas regularly have gangbangs, with five males to one female — that research was only published last year.”
In animals, [homosexuality] seems to be more about kinship and bonding, and how those animals fit in with a wider group or community, as opposed to a one-on-one pairing.”
In other words, those arguing that homosexuality is an evolutionary dead end are taking too narrow a view, with evidence that homosexual animals provide vital caring and support roles in animal communities, free from the burden of their own offspring.
 

‘via Blog this’

 

A Lesson in Couple Stability From Homosexual Zebra Finches

Is it possible for male couples to form lifelong, stable and faithful relationships?
Well, we know that some do – just look at the pics of couples lining up to tie the knot every time a new state or country introduces same-sex marriage or civil unions. These always show a high proportion of male and female couples who have been in stable relationships for several decades, eager to demonstrate to the world what they already know: that to all intents and purposes, they are really married de facto, and need to make that de jure as well.
We also know that as a group, gay men are statistically less likely than heterosexual married couples to form these life-long, stable and faithful partnerships. To confirm that, all we need to do is to consider the number of gay seniors who live alone, with the numbers who live with the same partner they have been with all their lives. The proportions are quite different to those applicable to straight men.
This is often used as a argument against gay relationships and LGBT equality. For example, in a nasty piece at the NOM sponsored Ruth institute, Jennifer Morse has this to say:
We already know that in terms of economic behavior, male couples are different from female couples, and both are different from married couples. We also know that separation rates (ie divorces) are different for male couples and for female couples and both are different (higher, like way higher) than for married couples.
(In a breathakingly inappropriate headline, Morse her article as “Intelligent Replies to Idiotic Comments“, but I let that pass. Rob Tisinai at Box Turtle Bulletin does a great job of showing her “intelligent” replies are made to demolish straw men -supposed that the proponents of marriage do not, in fact, advance. Read it).
I want to respond only to the one part of Morse’s piece which is not just a straw man response, but one which is dangerous and deceitful sleight-of-hand, the quote above. Let’s look more closely at what she is doing, and then provide a response which, be great serendipity, comes to us from – the world of birds: homosexual zebra finches.
The problem with Morse’s argument is that she is not comparing like with like.
“male couples are different from female couples, and both are different from married couples”
Not so. What she should have introduced into this statement, but could not do for her ideological bias, are the qualifiers “unmarried” (before “male couples”), and “heterosexual” (before “married). Then we would have the fairly obvious truism:
“unmarried male couples are different from female couples, and both are different from heterosexual married couples”,
Conversely, we could also say,
“married male couples are different from female couples, and both are different from unmarried heterosexual  couples”
Would that statement be true? We don’t know: married same-sex couples have not yet been around long enough to have produced compelling long-term evidence one way or the other. We do however have evidence to support another statement that Morse could have made – but did not:
“unmarried heterosexual couples are different from heterosexual married couples”,
One of the arguments against cohabitation before marriage is the abundant evidence that these relationship dissolve more easily and more frequently than formal marriages, with the attendant problems that can ensue for all parties involved – particularly the children. All relationships take work to make them endure. The stresses that contribute to relationship breakdown can be hard to resist at any time without reinforcement. The public visibility of a formal marriage, the vows that the parties have made and the legal obstacles in the way of divorce, all provide those reinforcements. It is no wonder that cohabiting relationships (gay or straight) break down more rapidly than married ones (gay or straight).
In addition to the standard difficulties in maintaining any long term relationship, gay couples have additional stresses unique to them, which arise from public prejudice and homophobia. (Things like the challenges of dealing with being fully out, or negotiating partial closets, problems for some couples with family acceptance, for instance). The apparent instability of gay couples may have more to do with their social circumstances, than anything inherent in the homoerotic orientation. To get a meaningful like for like comparison, we should be comparing  unmarried gay couples with unmarried straights, in a context where neither is handicapped by homophobia or public pressure. In the human context, this possibility simply does not exist.
In the natural world it does. Many animal species exhibit same-sex bonding and long-term couple formation. The animal kingdom  shows even greater sexual and gender diversity than the human one – and anything comparable to homophobia appears to be unknown. Published studies of individual species have shown that these same-sex couples are as stable as the mixed-sex counterparts. By great serendipity, the BBC has reported on another of these, a recent report of research into homosexual zebra finches, which corroborates my hypothesis above: that in the absence of homophobia, male couples can endure every are every but as stable as any others.
Male pair of Zebra finches
Same-sex pairs of monogamous birds are just as attached and faithful to each other as those paired with a member of the opposite sex.
The insight comes from a study of zebra finches – highly vocal, colourful birds that sing to their mates, a performance thought to strengthen the pair’s bond.
Scientists found that same-sex pairs of finches sang to and preened each other just like heterosexual pairs.
The study is reported in the journal Behavioural Ecology and Sociobiology.



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BBC Nature – Homosexual zebra finches form long-term bond

Same-sex pairs of monogamous birds are just as attached and faithful to each other as those paired with a member of the opposite sex.
 
 
Pair of Male Zebra Finches
 The insight comes from a study of zebra finches – highly vocal, colourful birds that sing to their mates, a performance thought to strengthen the pair’s bond.
Scientists found that same-sex pairs of finches sang to and preened each other just like heterosexual pairs.The study is reported in the journal Behavioural Ecology and Sociobiology.

Breaking Up Is Hard To Do….. Also For Vultures

Same sex pair bonding is widespread, throughout the natural world. Zoos are not exactly the natural world. The animals live in unnaturally confined conditions, and are often maintained there for the specific purpose of boosting numbers, in formal breeding programs. Unless you have an objection in principle to the mere existence of zoos (I’m neutral on that one), it’s difficult to get seriously dogmatic about the story Guido and Detlef, the male vultures of Munster zoo – but it does raise some questions:
The drama began in March when Guido and Detlef set up home together at the Allwetterzoo, in the British Army garrison town of Munster, northwest Germany.
The griffon vultures, Gyps fulvus, showed no interest in female company. They were happy in their own world, grooming one another with tender sweeps of their savage beaks between rearranging the sticks that made up their nest, although the other vultures kept stealing materials as if to spite their arrangement.
Dirk Wewers, the zoo’s curator, said: “They always sat so closely together. They defended their nest from the other vultures. A suitable female was missing and in such a case vultures look for companionship from the next best thing, even if it is a male. Detlef looked for a bird of the opposite sex but settled with Guido.”

As a professional zookeeper, Herr Wewers really should know better. It is perfectly true that in some cases, animals deprived of access to opposite sex partners my make do with their own sex a substitute, but this is not a “cause” of animal same sex behaviour in general. Animals frequently choose same sex partners in the wild, either exclusively, or alongside opposite sex dalliances as well. In some species, same sex coupling is in fact the norm, interrupted only by a handful of individuals at specific times, for the sole purpose of making babies. In Detlef’s case, the problem was not an absence of females – it was a communal, mixed sex birdcage. The simple fact is that Guido declined the virtues of opposite sex attraction, and chose to settle down instead with Guido.
Public reaction was also questionable. On the one hand, there is the dubious chortling at the “outrage” of the gay community, who got worked up about the fate of these birds rather than the much more important questions threatening the world?
In a world of cholera outbreaks, terrorism threats, imploding banks and decreasing fortunes and species, certain German gay rights campaigners have found the time to express solidarity and sympathy for the birds’ plight.
-Daily Telegraph (Australia)
Here, I have to ask the Telegraph: If the only issues worth paying any attention to are the big global issues, why are you paying any attention at all to the concerns of a few gay activists? We all have a range of concerns, from the global to the local, from the general to the particular. There is no justification at all for ridiculing the expressed concerns of this group. On another day, collectively or separately, they could well turn their attention and outrage to more serious questions (one of which might turn out to be homophobic journalism).
Last month (November), eight months after the pair first made a home together, the zoo decided that they could no longer tolerate this affront to their procreative obsession, and separated them.
Guido was removed last week, however, to be replaced by a flighty female from the Czech Republic who, it is hoped, will tickle Detlef’s fancy and eventually produce little vultures…
.. Guido (was) transferred 400 miles (650km) east to a zoo in Ostrava, in the Czech Republic.
-AOL News
But the best-laid plans of mice and men gang oft awry. You can take a male attracted vulture to a female, but you can’t force him to do the necessary.
So far, Detlef and the un-named Czech bird have yet to do the wild thing. Guido, transferred 400 miles east to a zoo in Ostrava, Czech Republic, is also reportedly not too enamoured with the heterosexual lifestyle now being forced upon him.
Will it be too late to teach an old vulture new tricks? Both Detlef and Guido are 14 and it is uncertain that the libido of either can live up to the expectations of keepers.
So why on earth was this enforced separation even attempted? If the breeding programme was of such importance to the zoo (griffon vultures are not endangered), why wait eight months before doing something about it.
But some of the gay activists’ reaction is also over the top.
“This is like in the dark middle ages, forcibly making a creature sexually re-orient itself by tearing its partner from its side,“ wrote one angry gay vulture lover.

“While the Roman-catholic church in the arch-conservative area of Muensterland is jubilant, homosexual federations and animal protection organizations from the whole world over are indignant.”

Five years ago a public petition saved the gay penguins of Bremerhaven Zoo from being split up.

The sequel to the Bremerhaven penguin saga was not the gay fairytale happy ending. The zoo left the two males together – but they later separated voluntarily, and found female mates.
It is definitely incorrect to assume that animals are naturally “heterosexual” (not even humans are), but it is equally misleading to think of a same sex bonded pair as “gay”, or even “homosexual”. The truth is that in the animal kingdom, as in human societies and individuals, there is an astonishing a range possibilities for erotic coupling, with no single one normative.
The really important lesson we should take from animal sexuality is this observation by Dr Gloria Brane, at Bilerico Project:
Female/male bonding pairs don’t point at the same-sex sweethearts and gossip; they don’t chase them from feeding stations; they don’t give them a hard time about nesting in the neighborhood. Humans invented the concept of separating individuals according to their sexual preferences. These are just birds doing what birds do without the repressive labels we humans believe are so necessary.
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