For 30 years now, ARTIS has been drawing attention to sexual diversity in nature. The first guided tour about homosexual behavior in the animal kingdom was given in 1993 in ARTIS-Park. Since then, ARTIS has devoted attention to the subject every year through lectures, guided tours and educational routes. Every day animal caretakers and volunteers tell stories about, for example, bisexual penguins or hermaphroditic plants. Exactly 30 years after the first tour, ARTIS is participating in the Canal Parade in Amsterdam for the first time, with the message ‘nature is queer and queer is natural’.
Nature is queer
Mating lionesses, hermaphroditic plants and penguin trios. Nature is queer. Homosexual behavior has been observed in some 1,500 species of birds and mammals, and the number is still growing. The examples in ARTIS-Park are therefore numerous. Visitors learn from an early age that a straight couple is not the only option and that gender is a flexible concept in nature. Every day, ARTIS animal caretakers and volunteers tell stories about the sexually diverse African penguin group, intersex among the Bennett wallabies and mating lionesses during ‘ARTIS tells’ or guided tours. The story of how two male griffon vultures hatched an egg together and raised the young went around the world.
In the botanical garden of ARTIS-Park, visitors can also learn about unisexual and bisexual plants and flowers. And in ARTIS-Micropia, the only microbe museum in the world, attention is paid to different forms of micro-organisms. Many bacteria and fungi have no sex at all, while other microbes have seven or more. Animals, plants, microbes; nature in the broadest sense of the word is queer.
From Saturday 29 July to Sunday 6 August there will be a guided tour about sexual diversity in nature every day at 1 pm (and also at 11 am on weekends) that all visitors to ARTIS-Park can join.
Artis de Partis goes to Pride
In order to spread the message of sexual diversity in nature more widely, ARTIS is sailing along with the Canal Parade for the first time this year. The ARTIS boat is a green oasis decorated with colorful plants and flowers and a large Artis de Partis, which is non-binary, adorns the deck. ARTIS employees and volunteers hold signs in the air with examples of sexual diversity in nature.
“You see what you think you see”
On 1 August, emeritus ARTIS biologist Charlotte Vermeulen will talk about sexual diversity in nature and the changing view on this in the ARTIS-Groote Museum. She first put homosexual behavior in nature on the agenda thirty years ago in ARTIS and developed numerous educational activities about it. Vermeulen: ‘Don’t assume that the top one is the male and the bottom one is the female. You see what you think you see.” How emancipated and sexually liberated is the science of biology? Which studies have been decisive in how we look at nature? Vermeulen argues that we see what we think we see. And that we first have to stretch our own thinking before we can see how diverse and wonderful nature is.
ARTIS, Plantage Kerklaan 38-40