Gays take a safari to study animal magic

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Homosexuals and lesbians are to be taken on a special tour of a Dutch safari park to observe "gay behaviour" among animals.

The Beekse Bergen safari park at Hilvarenbeek is holding the weekend- long event to highlight the fact that hundreds of species take part in homosexual acts, say officials.

Up to 3,000 gay visitors are expected at the park, 60 miles south of Amsterdam, next weekend. Events will include bus and boat trips during which guides will point out gay activities among animals ranging from apes to elephants. There will also be literature available on the subject.

Beekse Bergen regularly holds theme weekends. These have included mothers' and fathers' day events to show "parenting skills" in the animal world.

The gay visit has been organised by the newspaper Gay Krant and a pressure group, Rainbow Funday. The outing is part of a series for homosexuals and lesbians which have previously included amusement parks and Disneyland Paris. Amsterdam has a thriving gay scene and will host the quadrennial Gay Games next year.

Up to 300 species display gay behaviour but it is not directly comparable with human sexuality, say officials at Beekse Bergen. On occasions ritualised homosexual acts are carried out by the dominant animal in a group to assert his authority.

Leo Beckers, a director of Beekse Bergen, stressed that heterosxual visitors would be as welcome as gays. The management would also be happy to advise any British safari park which wants to lay on similar facilities.

"We cannot guarantee that the visitors will actually see gay acts taking place, that will depend entirely on luck. But we shall have guides on board who would be able to point out certain things, and answer questions.

"One cannot say that homosexuality among animals is exactly like humans, but it does exist. We have examples of this among apes and cows, flamingos and elephants. Obviously the animals do not consider this to be unnatural in any way."

"We have got a lot of land here, and the gay people can camp overnight and make a weekend of it. We hope it will all go well."

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