Friday, April 1, 2011

New study shows that gay orangutans are more common than previously thought


A recent study shows that homosexual behaviors in orangutans occur more frequent and could possibly mean that there are more homosexual orangutan that we previously thought. The study by Smith et al. (2011) found that, statistically, 1 out of 10 orangutan is actually gay. One of the example from the study described two male Sumatran orangutans (Pongo abelii) whom the authors believe are "totally gay".

Two male Sumatran orangutans were first observed making a nest together for the night. Orangutans make makeshift nests to sleep at night which they abandon during the day. Every night, orangutans make a new nest. Not only was it peculiar that two male orangutans would sleep together in the same nest, they seem to have taken a liking to their nesting site as well. The duo returned to their nest every night to sleep and would leave together during the day to forage for food, swinging side by side.

An example of orangutan nest. Siegfried and Roy's nest are much bigger, elaborate and fabulous.
 Photo by
The researchers nicknamed the two males "Siegfried" and "Roy" and posit that Siegfried and Roy were most probably attracted to each other's large cheek pads. Telling Siegfried and Roy together is not hard. Roy has a scar on his face, a reminder of his escape from the jaw of a Sumatran tiger. Not wanting to release the identity of "Siegfried" and "Roy" for fear of homophobic retaliations from other orangutans, the authors released a sketch (below) that was included in their paper.

This is what Siegfried and Roy supposed to look like. Smith et al. (2011).
Researchers were puzzled at first as to why these two males would bring objects back to their nest. Periodically, these two orangutans would bring back flowers and "kitschy" forest objects like dried twisted twigs or moss balls. Immediately after bring these objects back to the nest, they would then meticulously decorate their nest with them. "The objects that they bring back to the nest, it's like straight out of a Crate and Barrel store", Smith jokes. Remarkably, one of Smith's field assistant, Dorothy, fell in love with the orangutan couple and had decided to continue the study for her PhD dissertation. Friends of Dorothy were not shocked. "Dorothy simply adore those flaming apes", said one of them.

Siegfried and Roy would bring moss balls like these (pictured above) back to their nest.
Photo from Crate and Barrel. Real moss balls sold by Crate and Barrel, $12.95 for all 9, excluding tax.
Smith et al. (2011) reached out to Kanzi, a bonobo that uses lexigrams to communicate with human primates, for comments about their findings. Despite multiple attempts to ask Kanzi questions, he seemed to be fixated to only two lexigram combination. "We asked Kanzi questions like 'What do you think of these gay orangutans?'" said Smith and all Kanzi said was "Bi-Winning". "Maybe Kanzi was trying to tell us that bonobos are mostly bisexual but we're not sure why Kanzi kept giggling and saying 'Bi-Winning'", Smith added. Results of this study will be presented at a primatology convention this year. However, the authors are hesitant to present their findings anywhere near the Bible belt due to homophobic protests.

The homophobic Rat Pobertson (above), planned to protest the authors' findings. Pobertson claims that gay orangutans should be send to palm oil plantations as slaves.

Smith, JO. Fuqua, K. Gilman, I. Vagell, N.Dorothy, G. 2011. Flaming Apes: An Observation of Gay Sumatran Orangutans. Der Primaten 41(2011): 20-25.


Kira said...

Okay, where on earth did you find that picture of the orangutan???!!!! Is he real?!

Raymond Vagell said...

Hi Kira, thanks for reading the blog.

Yes, Rat Pobertson is real although that's most probably not his real name. I noticed that I did not cite where I got the photo from ... I should have.

Anyhow, this is where I found him

Ain't he adorable ... I just pinch his cheeks!

Kira said...

Thanks! He is so stinkin' precious! Cheers.

Daniel said...

nice post, i've enjoyed this blog for some time.

i must say, after spending 8hrs with Kanzi at the great ape trust of iowa today (my honest real life job), your quote is definitely something i could see him saying (if we had 'bi' or 'winning' on the lexigram keyboard). though, as a bonobo, he sticking pretty close to the Pan paniscus party line with that sentiment.

Raymond Vagell said...

Thanks Daniel. I'd love to go see Kanzi someday and mayhaps get to chat with him. Thanks for reading my blog, and the post!

Anonymous said...

You people that write,forward,or believe this are a bunch of nuts. To label an animal gay is beyond absurd.

Rafs said...