A pair of male lions has been caught attempting to mate by a photographer at the Yorkshire Wildlife Park in the north of England. The pair is part of the 13 lions that are hosted at the English animal reserve.
Amateur wildlife photographer Russ Bridges, who was visiting the tourist attraction with his wife, snapped the pictures on August 19. Bridges captured one of the male lions moving towards the other male, mounting him and pinning him down. After that, they apparently began to mate.
“Usually they lay asleep doing nothing when I go to photograph them, but this time they were up and about. My favourite shot is the one where he appears to be sticking his tongue out,” Bridges told The Independent.
“I've never seen a shot of two males on top of one another with one sticking his tongue out before – it's like he's showing some pride in what he's doing.”
Homosexual behavior in lions, especially in male lions, is actually fairly common. And it’s not just about mating. Courtship rituals like affectionate nuzzling, caressing, and head rubs, as well as playful rolling around, have all been witnessed. Male pairs bond for several days before they actually mount each other. Experts estimate that 8 percent of all mounting occurs with other males.
Bridges captured the couple next to a lioness, who appears to have a very dispassionate look on her face. According to the photographer, she’s not really interested in them. Every time either male approached her she would snarl at them and smack their faces with her paw. It is not unusual for lions to behave that way, so let's not read too much into her behavior.
Homosexual behavior has also been observed in lionesses. Pairing between female lions is a common sight in captive animals but has not been observed in the wild. Maybe the male lions are just bigger exhibitionists?
In Africa, the population of wild lions has shrunk by about 43 percent since the 1990s and while they are listed as vulnerable, some particular subspecies, like the Asiatic lion and the West African lion are considered respectively endangered and critically endangered. It is estimated that fewer than 20,000 lions are left on Earth.
[H/T: The Independent]