Animals with same-sex partners can be found all over the globe, across 1,500 species. But can animals be gay? Scientists say it’s complicated. While there are studies that show widespread animal homosexual behavior, the reasons may vary. Possibly, animals are showing dominance, practicing for mating, or simply blowing off steam.
Scientist Petter Bockman explains the lack of research about gay animals: "The theme has long been taboo. The problem is that researchers have not seen for themselves that the phenomenon exists or they have been confused when observing homosexual behavior or that they are fearful of being ridiculed by their colleagues. Many therefore overlook the abundance of material that is found. Many researchers have described homosexuality as something altogether different from sex. They must realize that animals can have sex with who they will, when they will and without consideration to a researcher's ethical principles."
The 2006 Against Nature? exhibit at the Natural History Museum at the University of Oslo in Norway documented homosexual and bisexual behavior across 1,500 species. The exhibit’s goal was to “help demystify homosexuality among people” and to “reject the all too well-known argument that homosexual behavior is a crime against nature.”
Scientists from the University of Western Australia spotted female gorillas in Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda acting intimate. And it wasn't just one couple. Of the 22 female gorillas that lead researcher Dr. Cyril Grueter observed, 18 were found to have engaged in homosexual sex. Often, it happened after they noticed a male gorilla initiating sex with another female. Their behavior could have been a way to appease their arousal in what Grueter called "the p*rnographic effect."
According to Grueter: “Given that all these observations come from wild groups, not gorillas held in captivity, it is obvious that homosexual activity is part of the gorillas’ natural behaviour. My impression is that these females derive pleasure from sexual interaction with other females.”
A University of Hawaii biologist who studied an albatross colony in Oahu, Hawaii, said that a third of the pairs are two females. Lindsay Young says that some of the female pairs have stayed together for nearly 19 years. The females chose a male partner to father their chicks, but then raised them with a female partner.
“This colony is literally the largest proportion of… I don't know what the correct term is - ‘homosexual animals?’ - in the world,” Young said. The birds can live up to 60 or even 70 years and tend to mate with the same bird annually.
Source: The New York Times
The bonobos have little to no boundaries when it comes to sexual behavior, using sex as a way to resolve conflicts and create a strong group bond. Same-sex encounters are frequent and casual, especially among females. Bonobos also share 98.7% of humankind’s DNA.
National Geographic reports: “Studies suggest 75% of bonobo sex is non-reproductive and that nearly all bonobos are bisexual.”
Long-time male partners and chinstrap penguins Roy and Silo caused a stir at the Central Park Zoo in New York when they hatched and cared for a chick, Tango. Although homosexual behavior has been well-documented among penguins, scientists in France put the couple’s relationship down to loneliness, citing the lack of available female partners. After six years together, Silo chose a female partner called Scrappy.
The zoo's senior penguin keeper, Rob Gramzay, said that although he was disappointed because Silo and Roy made a good pair, people shouldn’t read too much into it.