Gloria Brame, Ph.D.

Gay vulture flap at German zoo

Filed By Gloria Brame, Ph.D. | November 28, 2010 5:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Politics

This story pisses me off on several levels.

German Zoo Forces Gay Vultures to Mate With Females

First I strongly object to them even calling the birds gay. They are a bonded pair. Male-bonded pairs are a natural occurrence throughout the animal kingdom.

Female/male bonding pairs don't point at the same-sex sweethearts and gossip; they don't chase them from feeding stations; they don't give them a hard time about nesting in the neighborhood. Humans invented the concept of separating individuals according to their sexual preferences. These are just birds doing what birds do without the repressive labels we humans believe are so necessary.

What is, or should be, a key issue is the quality of life for these two. Not all species bond; some were born to lead solitary lives. But for the ones that have the evolutionary instinct to form close relationships with a partner or group, emotional quality of life improves when they find their special someone(s) and declines when they are separated from that partner. Anyone who's heard the laments of a widowed mourning dove (and if you haven't, consider yourself lucky) or who has nursed a dog or cat through the loss of its best animal friend knows that grief is a mysterious and powerful emotion shared throughout the animal world.

In general, I support efforts by rescue groups to preserve and increase the numbers of endangered species and breeds. But sometimes rescuers lose sight of their original goals (the betterment of life for the species/breed) and become obsessed with the mission itself (must save every life). They also lose sight of what, to me, is the most important issue in our efforts to help and restore health to endangered animals: providing quality of life to the ones we save.

Time and again, we've seen dog and cat rescuers turn into dog and cat hoarders, unable to provide the ones they save with the dignity and compassion they deserve. My former vet melted down in that direction: the more zealously she pursued ambitious, cross-country rescue missions, the worse the care her patients and the rescues in her care received, until, one awful day, I realized I could no longer trust her to make good decisions about my dogs' health.

I feel about animal life the way I do about human life: duration of life means very little without quality of life. Are they so desperately in need of a few more birds that they have to put these vultures through some undetermined period of heartbreak? If so, they should say so. Otherwise, one gets the impression that zookeepers are so blinded by their mission to assure reproduction of this species that they can't make allowances for birds who don't fit into their master plan.

One would think that a 21st century German zoo would have at least one director who learned a thing or two from history and would speak out for a more enlightened and less bio-centric approach that would take the needs and desires of the animals into account rather than using them as mere means towards an end.

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I agree mostly with what you are saying but some vultures are extremely endangered like the California Condor.Most people don't realize the importance of zoo breeding programs and how difficult it can be to get animals to breed in captivity.With some species we are getting to the point their only hope against extinction is living in captivity. I wish that they could come up with an invetro insemination program for the birds but without further study I can't say for certain that's possible. In the meantime I hope the Focus on the Family Style reparitive therapy isn't harmful to the birds.

The article actually states that they are not endangered.

Poor birds.

I was just going by this article. While they are not endangered their numbers are low and they are using zoo's as a captive breeding program to try and boost their numbers.Here's a link about Griffon Vultures by the Oakland Zoo.

"Otherwise, one gets the impression that zookeepers are so blinded by their mission to assure reproduction of this species that they can't make allowances for birds who don't fit into their master plan."

are they catholics?

I agree and if lisa's right, then they should have mentioned in the article that they're endangered. I read that article earlier this week and thought "Is this really an issue who he wants to live with in a zoo?"

I'm still wondering about artificial insemination, which they do in a lot of zoos for endangered animals. Does it not work for birds?

Lisa, IMHO only.... if they are absolutely intent on breeding every bird they rescue, they should prevent male birds from bonding in the first place. And they should also accept that some percent of their rescue population will prefer same-sex companions and should not be forced to reproduce. It's hardly news to anyone that given any population of birds (and many other species), intimate male bonding is a natural occurrence. So I think it's cruel and homophobic to separate animals who have bonded for life. It may be a tiny cruelty in a world of great cruelties, but to me it symbolizes the rampant undercurrents of homophobia (and animal cruelty) in culture.

I am majoring in environmental science so I do take animal welfare seriously but also it must be viewed realistically.What some people don't understand is that once an animal is declared extinct it loses its protected status.The Griffon Vulture is extinct in many European countries and is endangered in Croatia.Recently in Iowa we had a mountain Lion wander into the state.So of course someone shot it there was nothing to be done about it because mountain Lions were believed to be extinct in Iowa so they have no protection.In the Animal kingdom the majority of animals have been witnessed to be heterosexual, many display bisexual behavior and some are gay.Bonobos chimpanzees are believed to be 100% bisexual and some bird species are believed to be 100% heterosexual.Zoo's and captive breeding programs only have a limited amount of space and funding.In a perfect world we wouldn't need them because animals wouldn't need us to save them. In a well intentioned but still not perfect world those birds would have been placed in a program with enough females to allow them to choose from the beginning. I think if there wasn't enough space there an effort to find a bigger program with two available females should have been made and the pair should have been shipped there.If they chose to stay together fine but if they were simply bonded because of a lack of opportunity then that problem was solved.It would have offered an opportunity to prevent slinging of terms like Homophobia or heterophobia and just left it for the birds and the bees to decide.