"We didn't pay 37 million zlotys for the largest elephant house in Europe to have a gay elephant live there," said Michal Grzes, a conservative councillor in the Polish city of Poznan, Reuters reported last Friday.
What Michal doesn't know, apparently, is that homosexuality is rampant in the animal kingdom. The definitive text on the subject, Biological Exuberance: Animal Homosexuality and Natural Diversity, written by Canadian biologist and linguist Bruce Bagemihl, is an obsessive catalog of a phenomenon so widespread that the can barely contain it.
For the Cliff's Notes version, you have only to look to a 2006 article on the subject, which points out that big horn sheep live in "homosexual societies" in which they "bond through genital licking and anal intercourse." (Male sheep that choose not to engage in the behavior become social outcasts.)
And that's just the beginning.
"Giraffes have all-male orgies. So do bottlenose dolphins, killer whales, gray whales, and West Indian manatees. Japanese macaques, on the other hand, are ardent lesbians; the females enthusiastically mount each other. Bonobos, one of our closest primate relatives, are similar, except that their lesbian sexual encounters occur every two hours. Male bonobos engage in 'penis fencing,' which leads, surprisingly enough, to ejaculation. They also give each other genital massages."
Naturally, human behavior does not escape the continuum of expression implied by the diversity present in the animal kingdom, and perhaps that's the real origin of Michal's objection.
To be fair, he did have one legitimate critique of the situation.
"We were supposed to have a herd, but as Ninio prefers male friends over females, how will he produce offspring?" said Grzes.
What? Politicians are supposed to be smart! They dress a really butch lesbian elephant in a suit and tie and let 'er rip!
May need male handlers to gather the sample though.
@mitEj - Michal probably doesn't view artificial insemination as an option because he probably thinks the 'gay' gene will be passed on. Unless he thinks the elephant chooses to be gay, HAHA!!! Either way, he's clueless.
The behavior of a heifer in heat mounting another heifer is not so much homosexual as simply sexual. Those all-male giraffe orgies are likely expressions of sexual behavior in the absence of a female. When presented with a female in heat most male mammals aren't too confused about their orientation.
And there you have an excellent characterization of what most misunderstand about human homosexuality: it's just sexual behavior. There's no third or fourth gender and no need for special "rights" outside the ones guaranteed to all other humans. As it was said so eloquently on an old Northern Exposure episode: It's just sex.
It's sad to turn this into a social commentary, and an attempt to infer that Michal Grzes is some intense homophobe. It seems obvious that Mr. Grzes had one point, which the author finally conceded to, and that was simply that they needed the elephants to produce offspring in order to perpetuate the herd.
I see no evidence that Mr. Grzes is surprised that homosexual behaviour occurs in nature.
It only undermines scientific discussion to resort to name calling. As noted, the Polish official in question was concerned about the reproductive implications of the elephants behavior. Popsci then comes back with an unrelated point that animals exhibit various forms of unrestrained sexual gratification in nature. First Popsci misrepresent the official's point and then fan the flames of chauvinistic thinking. Overlaying socio-political issues where they don't belong does nothing to illuminate society or science.
Here's the Deadpan Inc. take on the subject. http://www.deadpaninc.com/2009/04/gay-elephants.html
Many other science-related posts at this site. Enjoy.
I love how people are quick to point out that because animals are animals that it's just sex. If they could only tell you how they really feel, you might not say things like that. I think it's pretty arrogant to put ourselves above other species when it comes to feelings of attachment/love or sex. Until you truely understand them, you can't really judge them either way.
imongi, you know how I know your gay?
Thank you for being one of the few intelligent voices out there, laurenra7. People are so out of touch anymore they inappropriately (and immaturely) anthropomorphise nearly anything that moves. Anyone who has responsibly raised children or animals knows that the lesser the intelligence, the more likely kid and creature alike will rut with just about anything or anyone. What do you think babies are doing when they scoot across the floor incessantly? Why do you think little girls love to swing for hours on end? Why do you think the Harry Potter vibrating toy broom was such a huge hit with boys and girls alike? C'mon, people, let's grow up here. The smartest animal on earth is only as intelligent as a human child and any parent knows that kids are little non-selective hormonal rutting machines until they reach puberty and suddenly have a mind to try to make sense of sexual preferences and choices. The true definition of homosexuality is when the same sex is still preferred and no sexual interest is expressed whatsoever even when the creature is presented with the opposite sex in heat. By this definition, no animal is "gay".