In an anniversary year for LGBT rights, Jack Williams, manager of Milnthorpe’s Lakeland Wildlife Oasis, asks if humans are playing catch up to the animal kingdom.

I HOPE we can all agree that inclusivity and tolerance are generally on the increase in modern, civilised society. But as so many of us are far too aware, this uphill climb comes in incremental small steps, with many rocks along the way.

One discouraging boulder has been the reaction to the government’s proposed measured and sensible programme of sex, health and relationship education in schools. Despite wide-ranging evidence that education and open discussion is vital for enabling safe, happy, healthy relationships, there has been a significant backlash.

I was saddened reading about teachers receiving security advice from police following protests from angry parents about proposed LGBT inclusive relationship sex education.

Fortunately, within the zoological community, scientific open mindedness promotes tolerance inclusivity.

As a zoo manager aiming to build upon a forward-thinking, scientific and education-focused organisation, I thought it vital that we position ourselves appropriately, ensuring that inclusivity and pride is present throughout our team and site.

This seemed particularly vital especially in this significant anniversary year. 2019 marks 50 years since 1969’s historically momentous Stonewall Riots, when the patrons of a New York City bar fought back against a discriminatory police raid and brought into the open the struggle for LGBT rights.

This massive step up the hill of LGBT visibility and tolerance will be celebrated at this summer’s PRIDE parades in hundreds of cities worldwide.

Carlisle, Lancaster and for the first time Morecambe will be joining the celebrating across the summer, and I’m really looking forward to bringing our own perspective to Lancaster’s Pride Parade on Saturday, June 22.

What do I intend by that? Thanks to my job, every day at the Oasis I learn more illuminating facts about the incredible animal kingdom.

What we are only now coming to learn and appreciate about the wide range of animal sexuality - and the simple acceptance of this in thousands of societies across the natural world is truly inspiring.

For centuries an overlooked and even censored part of scientific research, homosexuality and divergent sexual behaviour is now not just widely observed, but also documented to actually strengthen societal bonds. Same sex pairing in particular is not just normal, it's common: scientifically observed in 1,500 animal species, from insects to fish, birds and mammals.

Leading scientists now agree it's hard to argue that sexual diversity is in any way ‘unnatural’.

Add in species which can change their behaviour or even gender at will and you start to appreciate the wonderful range of natural animal behaviour. You don’t have to go far from your doorstep either - gloriously diverse sexuality can be observed in beetles, bats, dolphins, owls, salmon, sheep and seagulls!

This fantastic example of diversity and acceptance, I think, highlights where we humans are lagging behind our animal relatives.

To combat this, the zoo will be bringing (figuratively) some of my inspiring animal contemporaries out of the closet and along to Lancaster Pride on the June 22.

We’re also organising special evening events at the Oasis to educate, discuss and celebrate our growing understanding of the wide spectrum of animal behaviour, and have to thank our founders, Dave and Jo Marsden, for their support and inspiring intellectual curiosity.

So perhaps when educating people to respect equality and tolerance feels like a mammoth task, we can take inspiration even from the lowly dung beetle. Keep pushing the boulder up the hill; and pause to celebrate with Pride halfway up.