Two male lions have been spotted canoodling at the Masai Mara National Reserve in Kenya by a wildlife photographer.
The country's 'moral policeman' Ezekial Mutua says the animals must have been inspired by seeing gay men and should receive therapy Two lions spotted in a gay sexual encounter must have seen a homosexual couple "behaving badly" in their park and should be separated and given counselling, an official in Kenya said.
The animals were photographed after one mounted the other in a secluded bush area of the Masai Mara game reserve in the south-west of the African country. Ezekial Mutua, the chief executive of the Kenya Film Classification Board, said the pair must have been influenced after they viewed a human same sex couple. He claimed that was the only explanation for their “bizarre” behaviour, on the basis that lions don't watch TV or movies to see such acts there.
But he added it was also possible that they were driven by evil forces, saying that “demons also possess animals”. Mr Mutua is an infamous figure in Kenya, dubbed the country's "moral policeman" for his controversial and often anti-LGBT public statements. He has in the past banned "pro gay" movies and cartoons – because he believed it “glorifies” such relationships.
He spoke out over the two gay lions after seeing photos of the pair in a rare display of such behaviour captured by wildlife photographer Paul Goldstein.He told the Nairobi News: “We do not regulate animals, but this is a first and interesting to hear that there are two male lions in love. Some research needs to be done. "And also I wish I can get the bio to confirm the two lions were actually male, because it is not normal.”
He added: “These animals need counselling, because probably they have been influenced by gays who have gone to the national parks and behaved badly. I don’t know, they must have copied it somewhere or it is demonic. Because these animals do not watch movies.” Mr Mutua argued that homosexuality was caused by evil spirits and hinted that the gay lions could also have been possessed by the same source.
He said: “The demonic spirits inflicting in humans seems to have now caught up with animals.” Gay sex between lions is rare but not unheard of and happens elsewhere in the animal kingdom. Some biologists claim same-sex relations have been spotted in 1,500 different species, and reliably recorded in a third of these cases – or roughly 450 species.
"[P]robably, they have been influenced by gays who have gone to the national parks and behaved badly," Mutua told Nairobi News, before suggesting that the lions be isolated and studied because the "demonic spirits inflicting in humans seem to have now caught up with animals."
The actual story behind the photograph shows that Mutua got some things wrong. The mounting behavior isn't actually sexual. And the official jumped the gun on attributing human motivations to animal behavior, experts said. "It's rare, it's not really sexual and it tells us a lot more about those officials in Kenya and their homophobia than anything else," Craig Packer, the director of the Lion Research Center at the University of Minnesota, told Live Science. "It's a bizarre overreaction."
This isn't the first time two lions have been seen in a same-sex embrace. In March 2016, another photographer snapped a male mounting and humping another male in Botswana.
This isn't the first time two lions have been seen in a same-sex embrace. In March 2016, another photographer snapped a male mounting and humping another male in Botswana. The latest pictures were taken by Paul Goldstein, a British guide for Exodus Travels, who said the lions first stood side by side, and then one lay down and was mounted by the other. The lions stayed that way for over a minute, Goldstein said in a caption accompanying the photo.
"Even as he dismounted, he did not back off as is normal after mating. He crept round to the other male's muzzle, for a nuzzle, and threw a conspiratorial wink his way," Goldstein said.
This sequence is fairly similar to what was described in Botswana, where the two lions spent a long time in the mating position. But in both cases, these lions aren't mating, Packer said. When male lions mate, they zealously guard a receptive female for days at a time, having sex every half-hour or so and refusing to let any other males come near the female.
A male lion ejaculates almost immediately upon inserting his penis into the female, Packer said, and accompanies his ejaculation with a particular yowl. The male-on-male behavior in Kenya was nothing like that, and the male on top didn't ejaculate, Packer said.
Instead, the photograph captures a rare moment of social bonding between male lions. These lions spend their lives trying to reproduce. To up their odds, they work together in small groups of two, three or more males, called coalitions. These groups cooperate to drive off rival males and take over prides of females, killing any babies fathered by previous males,
Packer said. Long-term studies dating back to the 1970s show that lions who manage to become part of a coalition, particularly a larger one, get more access to females and ultimately produce more surviving offspring than other individuals.
Coalition males are typically affectionate with each other, Packer said. They'll flop down on each other, lick each other and rub each other's faces. On rare occasions, they'll display the mounting behavior that Goldstein witnessed. It seems to be a way to smooth over social tensions. The same sort of behavior occurs in baboons and many other social mammals, Packer said. Female lions do it too, he added.
Bridges' photos of the rare sighting went viral this week, with social media users commenting on the apparent joy experienced by the two lions, especially in one image that captures a yawn while one of the lions is mounted. A fair few people were watching this going on and laughing - they were all commenting on what it looked like,"
"I think it was a bit of a 'should have gone to Specsavers' moment as the lioness was just lying there next to them. In fairness, though, every time a male went near her she snarled and swiped their faces with her paw. "It's not really unusual for them to act that way sometimes. I don't know if it's a dominance thing or something like that - it looks as if they are aggressive, but it's all play between friends," Bridges said.
"If a lion mother had abnormally high androgens during pregnancy, her female offspring may end up 'masculinised," the zoologist says. "[It's] a situation that occurs occasionally in people, but that is rarely observed in wild animals."
Are there gay animals in nature? Homosexuality in the animal world
When it comes to homosexuality, for many people the recurring idea is that it’s something unnatural. But what does unnatural really mean? The definition of the term is something that goes against natural or human laws, especially in relation to morality.
Homosexuality is something that has always been exclusively associated with human beings, their psyche and their behaviour. A male is born with a predisposition to mate with a female, since the aim is the reproduction of the species. This is something determined by nature. But is it really like this?
In the animal kingdom there are many examples of homosexuality that completely dismantle the theories that associate these practices with a purely cognitive trait of human beings. In fact, in some species, homosexuality represents an evolutionary advantage.
Scientific studies and references
In 1995, zoologist Konrad Lorenz published a study in which he studied the behaviour of 1,500 animal species. He observed that 450 of these exhibited sexual intercourse, courtship, emotional bonds, partnership and even child-rearing behaviour between homosexual individuals. From primates to intestinal parasites.
A decade later, a study conducted by Dr. Nathan Bailey at the University of California, published in Trends in Ecology & Evolution, confirmed that examples of sexual behaviour between same-sex individuals could be found in all species of the animal kingdom.
These behaviours were different for each species, but in most cases they were an advantageous, evolutionary mechanism. For example, in the case of dolphins, males use sex to bond with other males and form alliances. In other species, such as fruit flies and insects in general, homosexuality occurs because of their inability to differentiate between sexes.
Gay geese and evolutionary theory
Geese are monogamous animals. They spend their lives with a single mate and only look for another if the first one dies. In Canada, according to some sources, up to 30% of these mates are homosexual.
The biologist Kurt Kotrschal, following on from the studies of Konrad Lorenz, has devoted many years to studying these animals. His research supports the idea that homosexuality is useful for the species. In 1963, Lorenz stated that male mates are more likely to occupy a higher level within geese colonies. This allows them to fertilise solitary females, while continuing with their same sex partners.
This is one of the theories that reports the evolutionary advantage of homosexuality, but it is not the only one. These studies explore the idea of homosexual behaviour as an evolutionary response to environmental changes. The environment is what determines these changes, driving species to change their sexual and affective behaviours.
Other animals with homosexual behaviour
In the case of American bison, polecats or elephants, both males and females have been observed courting and mating with others the same sex. In the case of giraffes, 9 out of 10 couplings occur between males. Bonobos form matriarchal societies, where 60% of sexual relations occur between females. In lions, 8% of mating observed are among males, and in the case of dogs, numerous research studies affirm the existence of patterns of homosexual behaviour.
As for birds, all species that form parental relationships do so, to a greater or lesser extent, with members of the same sex. As many as a quarter of black swans are homosexual. Penguins have even struck up same-sex relationships in zoos in different parts of the world. Studies have shown that up to 85% of lesbian pairs are found in populations of western seagulls.
And they’re not the only ones. Pigeons, vultures, ibis, lizards, sheep, macaques, hyenas, flies, dragonflies and countless other animal species are challenging the notion that homosexuality is “unnatural”.
The social taboo against science
It is interesting to note how the strong rejection of homosexuality by most societies throughout history has disadvantaged the emergence of a very different reality. A reality in which relationships between individuals of the same sex occur in all species and are part of their evolutionary development.
Thierry Lodé, a biologist specialising in animal sexuality, explains how the scientific community, influenced by the Judeo-Christian heritage, has for a long time viewed homosexual practices in animals as a pathology or disturbance.
In most cases, studies on this subject were avoided for fear of rejection by the scientific community and the wider social context marked by machismo and homophobia. Even today, it remains a taboo subject in many parts of the world where homosexuality is forbidden or even punishable by death.
The social system of dominance in animals: hierarchy and submission
As we have already discussed in previous articles, there are many species of animals around the world that have decided to live in a collective, associative and participative way. That is, they have determined that the most effective means of survival is to live in a group. This situation may seem logical and natural, since life in a group undoubtedly provides great advantages:
from thermal benefits and protection against predators, to reproductive and sexual selection advantages. But, as they say, “not all that glitters is gold”, and in these social systems we will see how this expression holds true.
As we know, group life is not always straightforward. There are a large number of actors involved, as well as external factors and agents that can be difficult for individuals to control. So, it is fair to assume that coexistence within a community also entails a series of costs, usually related to an increase in competition between individuals.
Threats, attacks, stress are commonplace in many animal groups, actions which almost always involve the most dominant members of the group. But what exactly is dominance? In this article we are going to analyse animal social systems, and illustrate some of the advantages and disadvantages it brings.
What is dominance?
Dominance is a hierarchical social system based on the persistence of an agonistic behaviour among individuals. Behaviour related to competition, conflict and clashes, which occurs between one or more dominant individuals and others that are considered subordinate.
The development of aggressive behaviour is both the most representative pattern of this type of social system and the most influential in terms of the relationships that take place within a community. Aggression by dominant parties is a resource which results, among other things, more tolerant and submissive individuals. This installs a series of hierarchies which may ultimately ensure the cohesion of the group.
It’s important to note that dominance is not a fixed individual characteristic, rather a trait that depends on the context and environment in which animals develop. Interestingly, dominant behaviour seems to be increasingly prevalent in the most hostile environments; this is the case of the spotted hyenas (Crocuta crocuta) of the Kalahari desert, which are clearly more dominant than other individuals of the same species living in more favourable regions.
However, the external environment is not the only factor that can influence the appearance of dominant behaviour. There is a series of additional factors involved in dominance that we will now take a look at.What are the factors involved in dominance?
As we’ve seen, the formation of groups and communities is usually determined by a system of dominance, according to which the most authoritative individuals establish and maintain a certain hierarchy. This hierarchy is not usually based on territorial superiority, but on an individual’s body size and the manifestation of secondary sexual characteristics.
In other words, the most dominant specimens usually have larger bodies and very marked characters, regardless of their age, sex or their familiarity with their habitat. The genotype is another of the factors that clearly play a role in the social systems of dominance. It is evident that the offspring of dominant individuals with an authoritarian tendency will also grow up to display dominant behaviour. That said, there are causes of aggressive behaviour that go beyond genetics. Let me give you a more specific example:
There are certain species of birds in which a pair of individuals may adopt the eggs of another breeding pair. In this sense, the behaviour of the parents towards their new chicks will be a determining factor in the future behaviour of the young, irrespective of the genotype. For example, the eggs of the great tit (Parus major), which are adopted by a dominant pair, will give birth to equally dominant chicks. How does this happen?
The answer is clear: dominant females seek food more efficiently, and provide better care for their offspring. This is clear evidence of the importance of the environment and behavioural patterns as contributing factors to dominance.
The advantages of being a dominant individual
Without a doubt, markedly dominant behaviour can be very helpful in many situations and can lead to significant advantages and benefits. As such, more authoritarian individuals enjoy greater reproductive success than subordinate individuals, have a higher survival rate and also have greater fat reserves, because they spend more time feeding.
Also, dominant individuals are less likely to suffer predation, as they often inhabit the least dangerous areas. On the other hand, subordinate individuals, who tend to inhabit the most peripheral territories, are far more exposed to predators.
Examples of this situation can be found in groups of ungulates or birds. In fact, thanks to a study carried out on the nocturnal birds of prey in the Scandinavian forests, it was observed that all the paridae (the family of passerines that includes the great tit and blue tit) that appeared in the pellets of the large birds of prey were subordinate specimens. How do they know this? Because these were individuals that had been ringed…
However, subordinate individuals may leave these adverse territories if conditions are too unfavourable, or if the dominant individuals in the group are overly aggressive, in order to locate a more suitable environment
The drawbacks of being a dominant individual
In spite of the advantages that we’ve just outlined, the aggressive behaviour of the dominant animals often brings with it a range of negative consequences that can affect their everyday lives. For example, they have to face a greater number of fights, which not only causes a greater amount of stress and exertion, but also makes them more visible to predators.
One of the most striking disadvantages of dominance is that they always protect the subordinates (they defend the whole group in reality). This means that if the leader is absent at some point, the subordinates will have a lower survival rate and, consequently, the viability of the community will be compromised.
Finally, it should be noted that not all decisions made dominant individuals benefit the group. Nevertheless, subordinates tend to follow them. This is the case of baboons (Papio), that follow their leader very closely, even if this means obtaining less food for the group. This kind of cost must be shouldered by the group.
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photos by pixabay.com