Sun, Oct 29, 2006 - Page 19 News List

A love that dares to grunt, bleat and growl its name

An exhibition on homosexuality in the animal kingdom has irked conservative Christians, one of whom hopes the organizers would 'burn in hell'

AFP , OSLO

Squawk and Milou, young male chinstrap penguins at the Central Park Zoo in Manhattan, display homosexual behavior.

PHOTO: NY TIMES NEWS SERVICE

Giraffes mounting, aroused whales mating and dragonflies copulating — perfectly normal, tender scenes — although perhaps not for all, as in this case these animals are of the same sex.

Breaking what is taboo for some, the Oslo Natural History Museum is currently showing an exhibition on homosexuality in the animal kingdom, which organizers say is the first of its kind in the world.

“As homosexual people are often confronted with the argument that their way of living is against the principles of nature, we thought that ... as a scientific institution, we could at least show that this is not true,” exhibition organizer Geir Soeli said. “You can think whatever you want about homosexuals but you cannot use that argument because it is very natural, it's very common in the animal kingdom.”

From beetles to swans and creatures considered to have a more macho image, such as lions and sperm whales, homosexual behavior has been detected in 1,500 species.

The exhibition, entitled Against Nature?, displays examples of this behavior in pictures and models.

In one image two female adult bonobo chimpanzees are having sex, oblivious to a young male who is attempting to join in.

These peaceful primates — with whom man shares 99 percent of his genetic makeup — use sex as a stress reliever regardless of age and gender barriers.

Be it a one-off, occasional or seasonal, homosexual and bisexual contact in the animal kingdom serves different purposes.

Big horn sheep “need to have sex with their own fellows just to be accepted. And by being accepted they are making up very important social relations which later give them better access to females,” Soeli said.

Among swans and flamingos there have been cases of two females living together using sexual contact with males purely to reproduce.

“One of them might have a small affair with a male, have her eggs fertilized, and the two females bring up the young birds together just as a family,” Soeli said.

It has been reported that in certain bird species males double up allowing them to control a larger territory than a heterosexual couple, which in turn serves to attract more females.

The first documented cases of supposed homosexuality in animals date back to the Greek philosopher Aristotle who, more than three centuries before Christ, was intrigued by the promiscuity of male hyenas.

The subject was then ignored for many centuries, with incidents of male coupling described as part of fighting rituals.

“They did not describe it as homo-sexual activity, or as the result of lust,” Soeli said. “But animals have strong instincts ... . Maybe they're having sex just because it's good.”

While the images displayed at the Natural History Museum wash over passing school children, the exhibition has sparked consternation in conservative Christians.

A Lutheran priest said he hoped the organizers would “burn in hell,” and a Pentecostal priest lashed out at the exhibition saying taxpayers' money used for it would have been better spent helping the animals correct “their perversions and deviances.”

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