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“Perverted” penguins and then some . . .

Are penguins “all too human”?

Continuing the topic of “animals-are-just-like-us” and “famous animals in captivity,” we turn to penguins — not because of their “happy feet” but because some of them form same-sex pairings.

The first famous “gay” penguin couple are Roy and Silo, male Chinstrap penguins at Manhattan’s Central Park Zoo. They came into prominence back in 2004 when they successfully hatched an egg given to them, the chick being named Tango. Their story prompted the 2005 book by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson entitled “And Tango Makes Three.” A play based on the book was then written by Emily Freeman. This play was opposed from being performed in an Austin, Texas elementary school — some claiming the play was not “age appropriate.”
Then there’s Pedro and Buddy, African penguins at the Toronto Zoo, who made headlines in 2011. They were since separated, introduced to female penguins and produced eggs this year. This move by zoo officials was met with criticism but apparently the penguins never looked back to their “bromance.”

And then there are the two unnamed King penguins at Denmark’s Odense Zoo. These two were so desperate to have offspring they even tried to steal an egg from a regular King penguin couple. They were also given a fertile egg to adopt and successfully hatched a King penguin chick.

The perception that these animals are “gay” is apparently partly based on likening animal behavior to human behavior — the “animals-are-just-like-us” viewpoint.

So, are animals “just like us”?

We should be careful against assuming what is natural for animals is desirable for humans.

For example, the article on Roy and Silo stated that humans take care of their elderly while animals don’t so this should not be an excuse for closing down nursing homes. Plus, this statement is countered by observations on otters giving food to their begging elderly (sometimes).

Also animals practice widespread infanticide — modern humans usually just go for abortion.

When it comes to sexuality, the general observation in animals is that, apparently, sexuality is not exclusive. What we perceive to be sexual orientation may just be “bonding” for some animal species. The sex of their mates are secondary, as long as they get some. Something humans can learn from.

The lesson is we should not immediately judge animals just because they do something similar to what humans do, without considering the motives. Better yet, it is safer not to judge at all.

Writer Jeff Macmahon argues that there is actually nothing that makes human beings any different from animals. Still, animals don’t persecute their own kind just because they don’t agree with who the others sleep with. Only humans do that.

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