How Animals Lie, Cheat, Kidnap and Go to War to get their Wicked Way

It seems humans don’t have a monopoly on bad behaviour when it comes to sex.

The animal kingdom is full of lousy lovers that lie, cheat, and go to war to get their wicked way.

These shocking antics are exposed in the new series Animals Behaving Badly on BBC One on Wednesday at 8pm.

Wildlife and science presenter Liz Bonnin says: “At first glance the way these animals are carrying on is appalling, they seem to be devious and violent. People are going to be shocked.

Peacocks are well known for their spectacular show (Image: 1)

“But a lot of these mating strategies are ingenious. The stuff they have to do, just to survive and have offspring, has instilled me with real respect for these animals.”

Here are some of the worst mating behaviours from the natural world.

Rhesus macaque is prepared to go to all kinds of lengths (Image: LightRocket)

Barbary macaques in Gibraltar kidnap baby monkeys to increase their chance of mating.

When two males fight the loser will steal a baby macaque from its mother and offer it to the victor.

They will then examine the infant, turning it over in their hands and baring their teeth at each other in a bizarre bonding ritual to re-establish the peace. It also helps the loser to improve his social standing with the dominant males in the group, to get better food and more mating opportunities.

The macaques steal babies (Image: 2)
The evil looking characters do return the babies (Image: 2)

The baby is then returned to its mother

Liz says: “Anyone who saw this would think Barbary macaques are some of the most evil characters, stealing a baby for no purpose.

“It is one of the strangest peace offerings I have witnessed in the animal kingdom and I have no idea how this olive branch evolved, but it works and is incredibly important for their society.”


Mongoose stray into rival territory on purpose (Image: 1)

Mongoose are one of the few species known to go to war (along with humans and chimpanzees) and females use this to their advantage when it’s time to mate.

Family troops suffer badly from inbreeding, which means pups are less healthy and are more likely to die. But mongoose are fiercely territorial, so mating with a stranger is extremely difficult.

The devious female will deliberately lead her family into a rival clan’s territory to start a war, then use the chaos to scurry off into the bushes with her chosen male to mate.

Liz says: “This is one of the most extreme behaviours we came across. It’s a risky business waging war, there are a lot of casualties on both sides, including pups.

“But it is a risk worth taking to increase the chances of having healthy pups and the species wouldn’t have survived the strange mating ritual unless it was beneficial.”


They can be promiscuous (Image: 1)
Prairie dogs are fertile for just six hours each year (Image: Universal Images Group Editorial)

Swans may mate for life, but other species prefer to change their partners with astonishing speed.

A female prairie dog is fertile for just six hours each year, but during that time she will mate with up to six different males within her group.

The more partners she has, the greater the danger of being caught in the open by a predator or catching a sexually transmitted disease.

Not all prairie dogs are promiscuous – a third have just one partner – but those that are increase their chances of conceiving and can even give birth to pups with different fathers in the same litter. That genetic diversity reduces the risk of the whole family being wiped out by a new disease.

Liz said: “We are still working out how a female can mate with lots of different males and bear young from each of them. It is a fantastic strategy.”

Peacocks use their squawk to attract partners (Image: 1)

They may be the most beautiful birds on the planet, but even peacocks struggle to find a mate.

So lusty males have come up with an ingenious way to get lucky.

When males mate they climax with a strangled squawk. This pitiful sound attracts other females that are keen to check out this stud as a potential partner.

Less desirable males have even learned to fake this cry when they cannot find a mate, as a way to lure peahens into having sex with them.

Liz says: “You might think that peacocks use so much energy looking flamboyant that they don’t have much intelligence in their little head, but that’s not the case. Faking the mating cry is an incredibly cunning ploy to make females think they are in demand, so they come running.”

Betray your wing man

Long tailed Manakin sings and dances to attract partners (Image: 1)

The Long Tailed Manakin puts on a song and dance to attract a mate.

Two male birds work together on a slender branch to perform a series of synchronised dance moves, including the cartwheel and the popcorn. The better the dance, the more likely they are to attract a female. But only one dance partner can get the girl.

While the alpha male flies off to mate with his new admirer, the subordinate is left spitting feathers.

Liz says: “This looks like the ultimate betrayal as the poor wing man is left with nothing to show for his efforts. But when the dominant male dies, the subordinate will inherit his dance site.

“Females will return to the best dance sites year after year, so his hard work eventually pays off.”

The female praying mantis has sex for 40 hours and then kills her partner (Image: Universal Images Group Editorial)
The insects lay hundreds of eggs (Image: Universal Images Group Editorial)

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SOURCE: Mirror, by Warren Manger