So, I’m working down my reading list for Africa. And I’m on The Safari Companion: A Guide to Watching African Mammals Including Hoofed Mammals, Carnivores, and Primates by Richard D. Estes which everyone recommends. It’s more of a reference book, the sort of thing you pull out in the LandRover when you’re looking at a plains zebra, so it’s a little tough sledding to just sit down and read.
But since we’re taking small planes across the southern part of Africa, our luggage limits are rather small. Which means number of books in luggage = 0. If I have to choose between camera gear and books, books are not going to win here. So, I’m reading it now. And I’ve covered stotting and musth and the ecological tradeoffs of a harem vs. a territory and that a boar has a 20 oz ejaculation. Coprophagia. The vomeronasal organ. How many species of male mammals test the urine of the female for reproductive status by rolling it around in their mouths and curling their lips like some people taste wine.
And then you get to the “giraffes are gay” part.
Really, look it up in Wikipedia.
Now a fact like this, you hope that there’s a large body of observational data behind it, backing it up. So, I followed it back and the “giraffes are gay” fact seems to come from a single source. Dr. Bruce Bagemihl, who wrote a book Biological Exuberance: Animal Homosexuality and Natural Diversity. You will not be shocked to learn that Dr. Bagemihl is himself, homosexual.
I have not read this book and there is limited information about it on the web, except that it documents homosexual behavior in 1500 species. Unfortunately for my credibility, from what information I could find, he includes species that are hermaphrodite, like worms, and species that do not have physical contact during sex, like sea urchins. This book presents proof that several animals — giraffes, dolphins, killer whales — have male orgies and that in one area of observation over 90% of giraffe mountings were male on male. He claims that in all domestic animals, males mount males more frequently than females, and as someone who grew up around farm animals… Well, I just have never noticed that behavior.
A second researcher, Dr. Joan Roughgarden, has taken this theory further. She believes that Darwin was wrong, that natural selection was wrong. That homosexuality is good for society and a requirement of complex societies. Her book is Evolution’s Rainbow: Diversity, Gender, and Sexuality in Nature and People. Dr. Roughgarden is a transsexual who came up with this theory while marching in a gay pride parade in the Castro.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not anti-gay. Life is tough, find happiness where you can and hold onto it with both hands. I’m hoping to help celebrate a few weddings this summer now that gay marriage is legal in California. But I am suspicious of any scientist that forms a theory and then goes looking for data to support it. It’s too easy to look to only look at the data that supports your theory.
I will certainly keep my eyes open for this behavior. Because I have no theory.