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Beware the guys of march
Or how the Christian right detected family values in the sex lives of penguins. But only the heterosexual ones. Plus: the bizarre parable of the Eyeballs In The Sky.
Eamonn McCann, 27 Jan 2006
For Hans and Hermann, Eric and Dora, Wendall and Cass, Silo and Roy and countless other couples across the globe, “March of the Penguins” has become the long walk to freedom.
Meanwhile, Charley, Left-Arrow, Diagonal-Line and Six-Point have returned home, crestfallen. Or would have if penguins had crests. The four hetero females had been brought from Sweden to Bremerhaven Zoo in Germany to lure local males away from gay relationships. But Hans and Herman and two other Humboldt couples “showed no interest at all,” sighed zoo spokesperson Heide Kuck.
Ms. Kuck defended the zoo’s efforts to “turn” the gay Humboldts. “The central question was, were they gay or was it simply a lack of opportunity? We now know the penguins were gay.”
The issue of homophobia in relation to the penguin world was brought into focus by the sensational success of the wild-life documentary March Of The Penguins.Christian commentators saw its depiction of the dedication and affection of mating penguins in the Antarctic as a celebration of family values and a refutation of evolution.
But the attention it focused on the sexual habits of the species has served also to reveal the incidence of homosexuality among the charming, flightless Spheniscidae.
The zoo-keepers of Bremerhaven had been sorely perplexed by the Humboldts’ refusal to breed until they realised the males had paired off. Last year, two of the pairs spent months sitting on stones, as if they were eggs.
“They did seem rather devoted to one another,” said Ms. Kuck. “But we had to be sure.”
Meanwhile, Edinburgh Zoo has denied rumours that Eric and Dora, two male King penguins living together, are to be split up. “There are no plans to move them, and they show no desire to change the arrangements.”
Generally speaking, seduction and intrigue are the order of the day among the 22 male and 10 female African black-footed penguins at the New York Aquarium in Coney Island. The females have taken advantage of the gender imbalance to indulge in spectacularly promiscuous behaviour. “They will casually dump their partners for single males with better nests,” says shocked (or not) keeper Stephanie Mitchell.