Two male lions from Kenya have created an online sensation with their alleged homosexual activity.
A wildlife photographer caught the pair "engaging in affectionate love-making," as the Daily Mail put it.
The photographer, Paul Goldstein, said he first observed them standing next to one another, when one lay down and was gently mounted by the other.
Goldstein, who hails from London and works as a guide for Exodus Travels, described the scene:
Sometimes you just see something that takes your breath away. I was guiding in the Masai Mara recently and we saw two impressive alpha males in perfect light.
After a while they stood together, in perfect symmetry. What then happened was remarkable.
I have heard of this happening in Botswana but with nothing like this vigor, and indeed at various zoos and safari parks, but incarcerated animals will do strange things, who can blame them.
This however was astonishing. I normally loathe any sort of humanizing with animals and our documentary channels are full of it, but this was not only surprising but it was impossible not to smile.
When lions mate it normally last a few seconds, these two were at it for over a minute and the obvious affection afterwards was very evident, as opposed to the violent withdrawal when male and female mate.
Even as he dismounted he did not back off as is normal after mating, he crept round to the other male's muzzle, for a nuzzle and threw a conspiratorial wink his way.
Goldstein isn't the only one photographing supposedly gay lions.
At England's Yorkshire Wildlife Park in August, Russ Bridges snapped pictures of two male lions who were apparently attempting to mate, reports the Independent.
"It's all play between friends," said Bridges. "There are two males and a female in that pride. One of the lions suddenly got up, walked over and jumped on his friend's back. A fair few people were watching this going on and laughing -- they were all commenting on what it looked like ... In fairness though, every time a male went near her she snarled and swiped their faces with her paw. It's not really unusual for them to act that way sometimes. I don't know if it's a dominance thing or something like that -- it looks as if they are aggressive, but it's all play between friends.”
But the lions did do something unusual, he said.
"My favorite shot is the one where he appears to be sticking his tongue out. 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."
Another case of alleged male lion love was captured on film in 2016 by Belgian photographer Nicole Cambre, The Washington Post reported.
The photos, which she took in Botswana, showed two lions, both with lush manes, cuddling at sunset in the tall grass and mounting each other.
Commenters on social media proclaimed the lions as symbols of the naturalness of homosexuality. The Daily Mail headline-punned its story "Gay Pride!"
Craig Packer, a University of Minnesota professor who is one of the world's top experts on African lions, examined the photos and declared that it was not an example of homosexuality.
“It's a bromance, not 'Brokeback Mountain,'” Packer said. “I don't think you have to look at animals to justify what humans do. Our biology is far more complicated.”
Packer explained that two to four male lions usually form what is known as a coalition, and they work together to take over a pride, which refers only to female lions. Those males depend on each other to fend off other coalitions, which is crucial to being able “to reproduce -- with females,” Packer said.
As a result, the males are often affectionate with one another. “It's incredibly sweet to see,” he said.
The mounting shown in Cambre's photos is “more persistent than I've ever seen in the wild.”
It's possible they were nervous about an encroaching coalition, or just happened to be in the mood without available females around.
“If there was a receptive female that would wander up about that point, they would stop that,” said Packer, who compared the lions' mounting to a dog humping a human's leg.