American idol Adam Lambert recently openly admitted to himself being gay on national television. While some commended him for being open about it, many others condemned him for his sexual orientation. In today’s society, homosexuality is still considered taboo in many countries. Little do people know that homosexual and bisexual activities have been ongoing in the animal kingdom.
Meet Roy and Silo (above), two male chinstrap penguins at New York’s Central Park Zoo. They have been inseperable for six years since 1998, openly displaying homosexual behavior. Together, they have displayed classic penguin pair-bonding behavior such as the entwining of necks, mutual preening, flipper flapping, etc. You may find it hard to believe, but yes, they also had sex, while ignoring potential female mates. Together, they raised a child, obtained from a surrogate mother penguin. While the pair has already broken up in 2005, zoos from all around the world have been finding similar patterns of homosexuality in their penguins as well. A German zoo, in Bremerhaven, northern Germany, claims that their two male penguins, Z and Vielpunkt have hatched a chick and are now rearing it together as its adoptive parents.
Homosexual or bisexual behavior is not an uncommon observation amongst animals. James Owen from National Geographic mentioned in his article that birds do it too, so do beetles, sheeps, orang utans, dolphins, fruit bats, etc. Such behavior to be seems extremely intriguing. I would usually presume that male animals will be on the lookout for female animals for mating purposes, and not male animals. I tried doing more research on the topic and have found out possible reasons for such behavior. Some animals appear to go through a homosexual phase before they become fully mature. Others form temporal sexual relationships for social reasons – to establish lifelong bonds within their kind.
It is interesting to point out that despite such behavior being common amongst animals, they have only been documented relatively recently due to zoologists fear of stepping into a political mindfield of homosexuality and hetrosexuality.
“Homosexual Activity Among Animals Stirs Debate” by J. Owen. National Geographic News, 23rd July 2004. URL: http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2004/07/0722_040722_gayanimal.html (accessed on 2nd April 2010)
“New Love Breaks Up a 6-Year Relationship at the Zoo” by J. Miller. New York Times, 24th September 2005. URL: http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/24/nyregion/24penguins.html (accessed on 3rd April 2010)
“The Gay Penguins of the Central Park Zoo” by M. Balan, 19th August 2006. URL: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UibmZXbiI3Y (accessed on 4th April 2010)
M. Renner, J. Valencia, S. David, D. Saez & C. Orlando, 1998. “Sexing of Adult Gentoo Penguins in Antarctica using Morphometrics”. Journal of Colonial Waterbirds. 21(3): 444-449 (accessed from Jstor on 4th April 2010)