'Gay Elephant' Is Just the Tip of the Iceberg

A Polish politician, furious over a gay elephant, obviously hasn't been keeping up with the latest research on homosexuality in animals

Elephant Cruising

Image courtesy of exfordy via Flickr.com

"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.