Love in the Wild!
Love is a universal phenomenon, that cuts across human elements like time, geographies, cultural origins etc. In fact, we humans have given love a distinct definition, binding it into time and space. Interestingly, our wild brethren seldom show that love-obsession, maybe only to some extent in terms of mating seasons and destinations. And this does not mean that they do not really have their heart-warming (or even heart-wrenching) love stories! From elaborate mating rituals to absolute rejection, from commitment to dejection, they too face the good and bad in love. Let’s spare some thought and peep into the love stories of our beloved wild denizens!
Courage in Combat and in Love: The Tiger:
Securing a mate is one of the toughest tasks in the wild, and not without its threats. Often, wild animals may need to even keep their precious lives at stake to win over their soul-mates. Males get into combat to prove their strength and dominance, while the female may look on and evaluate the brains and brawn of the potential father of her kids. Tiger-fights in the wild have often been a result of two eligible bachelors wooing the lissom ladies. Right from pursuing the lady with all tantalizing tricks, to fighting head-on with the villain. Certainly, a fight for mate serves the perfect “masala” for a Bollywood flick. Mind you, it is a dangerous affair, there have been accounts of the lesser ones breathing their last in the quest for love.
Ready to Die, in love: Praying Mantis:
Death seems to be closely associated with love in the wild or so suggests the love-life of many an insect. These seemingly inconspicuous souls are believed to make the ultimate sacrifice in love- a sacrifice of their lives. Well, not exactly an emotional sacrifice maybe, but it is more so a part of the mating process. Take the case of the Praying Mantis, wherein the female is known for its supposed savagery- the female eats up the male right after the mating procedure. A phenomenon called sexual cannibalism, while it may appear cruel and unreasonable there are several possible reasons nature has invented this phenomenon. A study shows that female praying mantises who eat their male partners after mating produces more eggs than those who don’t. This is nature’s way of ensuring that the male provides for the offspring, even in death. Weird are the ways of love, even in the wild. Aren’t they?
Soaring in Love, the Sarus Crane:
The tallest flying bird, this beautiful bird is known in India to be a symbol marital fidelity. Bird observations have revealed that the cranes mate for life and even pine the loss of their mates. They may take this to the brink, even starving themselves to the point of death, in certain cases. Maybe the beautiful bright red head that has been the muse of many a birder is indeed a sign of the colour of love i.e. red.
Bound in Love: Hornbills:
Hornbills follow a unique nesting pattern- they are tree nesters, not by building nests on tree-tops, but the female spends her gestation period enclosed in a tree hollow. The expecting couple finds a hollow tree trunk, the female gets inside and the male brings all sorts of “packing material” like bark, soil, twigs etc. to pack the gaping hole, only to leave a narrow slit- the female’s only window to the world. The female’s job is to lay the eggs and incubate them in this tiny world, and the male’s job is to supply food through the slit, to keep his love and offspring alive. The male may make up to 70 feeding trips a day, bringing the female and the chicks geckos, seeds, insects, frogs slugs, berries and occasionally snakes. This goes on for a period of 3-5 months, a commendable feat of love-commitment. No wonder, hornbills are regarded as symbols of unconditional love for the fact that the male assumes whole and sole responsibility for the female and his offspring’s survival.
These are just some of the fascinating love stories from the wild. Yes, there are those amongst us who may argue that many of these behaviours are not a case of “love actually” i.e. wild animals may not have the “butterflies in the stomach” feeling when in love. Many argue that love in the wild is merely for the sake of securing the best possible mate, to ensure healthy offspring for the future. This may be true to a great extent, but it would also be untrue to say that animals are without any emotions at all. Maybe we as human must let go the “superiority” stance that we often cling to, and acknowledge that animals too have a mind of their own, and most importantly a heart of their own as living, breathing flesh and blood. So, the next time you see a love-story blooming in nature, it would do some good to show some respect for the wild side of love!
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