Day By Day

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Gay Penguin Update -- Swedish Temptresses Strike Out

A few weeks ago I posted on a problem faced by a German Zoo. They found that their three supposed mating pairs of Humboldt penguins were all male. Despite this the six male penguins had formed pairs and in one case actually tried to hatch a rock which they mistook for an egg. Of course the popular press and the internet had a field day, running with the continuing saga of the "gay" penguins.
The German press has had great fun with the story, with Der Spiegel news weekly plastering a headline across two pages of photographs of the males penguins, saying: "They wear a suit, but they swing the other way."

The German zoo, in an attempt to get the male penguins to form normal mating pairs, imported four female penguins from Sweden. Predictably there was an uproar from gay activists:
The zoo's decision to draft in the Swedish 'temptresses' has prompted a furious reaction from gay and lesbian groups. A gay website in Austria has even launched a petition protesting against the treatment of the 'gay penguins', claiming it is "clear discrimination".

I argued at the time that "gay" and "homosexual" were inappropriate terms to use because they implied human characteristics in non-humans. This was not likely to be a case of homosexual impulses at work -- much more likely it was simply instinctive behavior applied in abnormal circumstances. Humbolt penguins have a strong mating instinct that under normal conditions would have resulted in male/female pair bonding, but in the absence of females produced same-sex bonds. Bonding with an available male was no different than trying to hatch a rock in the absence of eggs, or Konrad Lorentz' famous experiment in which newly hatched geese imprinted on a balloon and followed it around as if it was their mother.

Well, here's the latest: The "temptresses" have failed. AFP reports:
Six male penguins at a German zoo are proving stubbornly resistant to the advances of four females brought in from Sweden to tempt them into breeding.

The story adds a lot of interesting details to the original one that spread across the internet. Check it out here.

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