Gay lions? Not at all, despite the photo

A wildlife photographer captured a stunning image of two male lions in Kenya’s Masai Mara.

(Paul Goldstein/Cover Images/Newscom)

A photo of two male lions seemingly in an amorous embrace has a number of people with their pearls.

After the release of the photo, taken in August in Kenya’s Masai Mara National Reserve, Ezekiel Mutua, the chief executive of the Kenya Film Classification Board, the fault of the man (or perhaps demons) for the man-on-man mount.

“[P]robably, they are influenced by gays who have gone to the national parks and behaved badly,” Mutua told Nairobi News, before suggesting that the lions have to be isolated and studied because of the “demonic spirits cause in people seem to have now caught with the animals.”

The actual story behind the picture shows that Mutua did a number of things wrong. The mounting behavior is actually not at all sexual. And the official jumped the gun on attributing human motivations to the behavior of experts said. [Gay Animals: 10 Alternate Lifestyles in the Wild]

More From LiveScience

  • Photos: The Biggest Lions on Earth

  • In Pictures: The Wild animals of the Kruger National Park

  • 101 Animal Shots You’ll Go Wild About

“It is rare, it is not really sexual, and it tells us much more about who officials in Kenya and their homophobia than anything else,” Craig Packer, the director of the Lion Research Center at the University of Minnesota, told Science. “It is a bizarre response.”

Loving lion

This is not the first time that the two lions are seen in a same-sex embrace. In March 2016, another photographer snapped a man mounting and humping another man in Botswana.

The last photos were taken by Paul Goldstein, a British guide for Exodus Travel, who said that the lions the first time stood side by side, and then one lie, and was mounted by the other. The lions stayed that way for more than a minute, Goldstein said in a caption for the photo.

“Even if he disconnected, he did not back out as normal after the mating. He crawled around to the other man’s muzzle, for a nuzzle, and threw a conspiratorial wink his way,” Goldstein said.

This sequence is quite similar to what was described in Botswana, where the two lions spent a long time in the opposite position. But in both cases, these lions are not mating, Packer. When male lions mate, they diligently watch over a receptive female for a long time, having sex every half hour or so, and the refuse to use any other males come near the female. A male lion ejaculates almost immediately after placing his penis in the woman, Packer said, and accompanied his ejaculation with a certain yowl.

The man-on-man behavior in Kenya was none of that, and the man on the top not to ejaculate, Packer.

Of the same gender disorders

Instead, the photo captures a rare moment of social bonding between male lions. These lions their whole life trying to reproduce. To their opportunities, they work together in small groups of two, three or more men, called coalitions. These groups work together to drive off rival males and pride of women, the killing of a baby fathered by previous males, Packer. Long-term studies dating back to the 1970’s show that the lions that the management of a part of a coalition, in particular with a bigger, gain more access to females and, ultimately, produce more surviving offspring than other individuals.

Coalition males are usually affectionate with each other, Packer said. She will flop down on each other, licking each other and rubbing each other’s faces. In rare cases, they give the assembly of behaviour that Goldstein experienced. It seems to be a way to smooth over social tensions. The same sort of behavior occurs in the baboons, and many other social mammals, Packer. Female lions do it too, he added.

“It is a social interaction that has nothing to do with sexual pleasure,” he said.

Original article on Live Science.

Follow us

Don't be shy, get in touch. We love meeting interesting people and making new friends.

Most popular