Two Asiatic lions outside the Gir protected area in the Amreli district have proved once again that even in the animal kingdom, love does not acknowledge gender. a social forestry officer noted an interesting coupling incidence among lions from the point of view of behavioural patterns in a lion pride with respect to sexual preferences.
The officer observed a mating session of a male lion with a lioness, where after one or two successful love games, the lioness feigned tiredness. The lion moved away and mounted a male lion waiting at a distance. He then came back and resumed mating with the lioness. During his coupling session which lasted for four days, the lion was spotted mounting the receptive male at least thrice.
Homosexuality among lions is not an entirely unknown phenomenon, though rare. Gay lions showing love, and affection to the extent of having active sexual activity with each other is known to zoologists the world over. In Gir lion sanctuary too, officials are aware of this natural trait among some lions since 1973. Homosexuality exists among lions as well as lionesses. It took two former deputy forest conservators B P Pati and Sanat Chavan to document the behaviour in at least 2% of mating incidents recorded.
In “Homosexuality in Asiatic Lion: A case study from Gir National Park and Sanctuary”, a paper, published in the Journal of Bombay Natural History Society in August 2001, it is said that though the Asiatic lion’s natural sexual behaviour is generally confined to heterosexuality, here are a few exceptions.
The case in point was a pair of prime territorial males, aged 6 to 7 years. When not with females, they manifested their homosexual streak. The male lions from Khokhra in Gir holding about 70 sq km, though mated with three of the four females in the territory, were found engaging in homosexual activity. They were spotted by a group of trackers for five days in November 1999 and three days in December 1999 where the larger male mounted the smaller partner showing a subservient receptive attitude.
The paper stated that “The smaller one rarely growled, unlike larger ones during mating. Each mounting lasted 12-23 seconds, and the gap between the two mountings varied from 4-12 minutes. The frequency increased during the morning and evening hours. Of the 45 mountings observed, the smaller male showed repulsive action in four cases, which may be due to the actual anal penetration during mounting,” It also noted that in the areas where these lions moved had a low female population.
Chavan reported lesbianism in the Asiatic lionesses of Gir also in 1982. In The paper “Observation of Homosexual behaviour in Asiatic lion”, he states to have observed homosexual behaviour in two adult lionesses on three occasions in Gir Sanctuary. Both the lionesses were adults over 15 years of age.
The paper notes an incident where a lioness was mounted by another in similar posturing as that of a male when she was unable to obtain a favourable response from a male lion who seemed tired and kept resting after third day of mating. The paper records the females to have switched positions on repeated occasions. The male was also close to them but remained indifferent to the females, the paper noted.
Biologists and scientists have recorded same-sex sexual activity in more than 1,500 species. Apart from lions, homosexuality is recorded among flamingos, swans, dolphins, beetles, and giraffes too.