It might be time for monkeys to have an intervention with themselves, because trying to mate with an unenthusiastic, non-monkey bystander is never a good look.
And while the attempted coupling is nowhere near as violent as when that Antarctic fur seal sexually harassed king penguins before eating them alive, it’s so awkward, we just want to hand that monkey a tissue and run away.
Filmed by French scientists in the dense cedar forest of Japan’s Yakushima Island, the bizarre behaviour involves a low-ranking Japanese macaque attempting to mount two female Sika deer before sliding off in disgrace.
As The Guardian reports, this is only the second recorded example of sexual relations between these two distantly related species.
At one point in the footage below, the monkey appears to have mounted a deer and ejaculated on its back, before deciding to casually pick at itself under a nearby tree.
The deer licks away the evidence with such nonchalance, you can’t help but wonder if it’s all too familiar with the situation:
Later on in the footage, we see the monkey chasing off two other monkeys that got too close to the deer, because no one’s going to get in the way of him and his unwilling sex partner.
So what exactly is going on here?
The researchers who caught the behaviour on film, led by Marie Pelé from the University of Strasbourg in France, suspect that a hormonal surge prompted the monkey to seek out the Sika deer.
Being of such low social status in his local monkey troop - the researchers refer to him as a "peripheral" male, meaning he’s only been permitted to occupy the fringe of the social circle - he probably couldn’t get a female monkey to mate with him if he tried.
"It would be interesting to continue to observe these Japanese macaque male groups in Yakushima as this species is known to display cultural behaviours and social learning," team member Sueur Cédric told New Scientist.
"As a consequence of 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."
The fact that the deer barely react to the behaviour suggests that either they’re used to the peripheral monkeys trying to mate with them, or that the behaviour is similar to some more 'innocent' interactions between the two species.
"It could be a manifestation of the known play behaviour between Japanese macaques and the deer they are known to sometimes ride," Pelé said.
The good news that while the monkey might have successful relieved some tension thanks to the whole affair, it wasn’t a total loss for the deer.
"[T]he licking behaviour shown by the deer seems to indicate that the sperm could be a good source of protein," the team reports.
Good job, nature. Good job.
The behaviour has been reported in Primates.