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Animal Instincts

Scientists have long known that homosexuality is common in the animal kingdom, but only recently have they begun to discover the full extent of queerness among animals. And now, one zoo in the Netherlands hopes to profit from it. The January 7 Sunday Times of London reported that Amsterdam's Artis Zoo has begun offering "gayded tours" of its facilities. Among the highlights are "a flamingo lake where same-sex orgies are de rigueur, ... a lesbian chimp, and there are whispers about a 'pink elephant' that has remained a confirmed bachelor since being donated by Nehru in the 1950s." Part of the purpose, according to zoo officials, is to help visitors realize just how natural homosexuality is.

In the past year, scientists have made a handful of important discoveries about same-sex animal attractions. Most recently, researchers discovered that a strikingly high proportion of polar bears on the Arctic islands of Svalbard are hermaphroditic. The BBC reported on September 1 that approximately 1.2 percent of the Norwegian islands' 3,000 bears have reproductive organs of both sexes -- a condition scientists attribute to environmental pollutants. Earlier this year biologists reported in Science magazine that the bdelloid rotifer, an all-female species of tiny water animal, has been breeding without males for 40 million years.

Then there's the mandrill monkey. Male mandrills do exist, but mandrill society is female-dominated. Researchers have found that the baboon-like creatures, which were featured in the Lion King, form social groups consisting "almost entirely of females and their dependent offspring." This is in stark contrast to most simian societies, which are comprised of an alpha male and a harem of submissive females. The New York Times reports that "once the [mandrill] breeding season is through, the males disappear, and spend the rest of the year in distinctly unsimian solitude. ... They don't establish long-term bonds with females."

Maybe Dr. Laura should start spending more time at the zoo.

 - PlanetOut