Yakushima Island, nestled off the coast of southernmost Japan, is known for its fairytale-like forests and its bubbling, crystal-blue rivers. It’s also the site of a new scientific mystery, one involving a frisky macaque monkey trying to have sex with deer.
Monkey trying to mate with deer
A male monkey in Japan has been filmed trying to mate with a female deer—likely the first observation of two distantly related species having a nonviolent sexual encounter.
Japanese macaques and sika deer regularly hang around each other on the island of Yakushima. This association has little to do with camaraderie: The deer know that if they stay close to the macaques, they can scarf up any fruits that the macaques drop from the canopy above.
The deer have also been seen eating the monkeys’ feces, and the primates, in turn, have been seen grooming and even riding the deer, says Cédric Sueur, an animal behaviorist at Hubert Curien Multidisciplinary Institute in France.
These are the interactions wildlife photographer Alexandre Bonnefoy hoped to capture when he visited Yakushima for an upcoming photography book, Saru. But he ended up getting more than he bargained for when he captured a single male macaque mounting two separate female deer.
When Bonnefoy showed the video to Sueur and several other primatologists, the scientists quickly realized nothing like this had ever been seen before on Yakushima—or anywhere, for that matter.
Scientists investigate why this monkey is trying to screw deer
Sexual Frustration ? What would lead two distantly related animals to do such a thing?
It could be that the whole episode was merely a case of mistaken identity, but this seems unlikely given that interspecies mating usually happens between closely related creatures—a coyote and a dog, say—and it’s unlikely the macaque confused the deer with another monkey, the study says.
Similarly, it’s possible that the male macaque was using the female deer to practice sex. But this explanation also doesn’t quite fit given that macaques are highly social animals, and there are many opportunities for them to observe and mimic their kin.
Instead, Sueur thinks the most reasonable explanation is that the macaque is a so-called peripheral male—a low position in macaque society that generally does not come with breeding rights.
“As a consequence to not having access to females, these peripheral males could socially learn to have sexual interaction with sika deer in order to decrease their sexual frustration,” says Sueur.
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Video resource: National Geographic