Gay penguins in Australia adopted an egg and they are ‘amazing parents’
Two male penguins in Sydney are raising an egg together.
Gentoo penguins Magic and Sphen were given the chance to practice their parenthood skills with a dummy egg before zookeepers at Sea Life Sydney Aquarium decided they were ready to adopt a real one.
“They were absolute naturals and displayed great care for their egg, so much so, the team at Sea Life Sydney fostered a real egg to them from another couple who had two,” the aquarium said in a statement published on their website on Friday (October 12).
“Whilst Sphen is older and is excellent at incubating, Magic is younger and still mastering his skill,” the statement added.
Zookeepers first noticed that the penguins had formed a very close bond ahead of breeding season. Sphen even gifted Magic a special stone, which zookeepers explained is “equivalent to proposing in the love language of penguins.”
Signs that the pair wanted to start a family became clear during breeding season, when the pair began hoarding pebbles to build a nest.
To ensure they didn’t feel upset when nature did not deliver, the pair were given a dummy egg to incubate.
The two penguins did an incredible job, rotating roles daily. One of the parents would do their best to incubate the egg, while the other patrols the perimeters of the nest, warding off any potential pebble thieves or over-inquisitive neighbours.
“The pair make a great team, and there are often days where the egg can not be seen (which is really good for penguin breeding!).
“We are hoping the Gentoo Penguin breeding program will see first successful year of penguin breeding with aims to become amongst the most successful in the world,” the aquarium said.
Zookeepers are confident the pair will do a great job of raising the chick once their egg hatches.
“We’re not going to need to step in just because they’re males,” Zookeper Tish Hannan told Australian Broadcasting Corporation, “We might step in if it turns out that they’re not good parents because of who they are as individuals, but for all the signs we’re seeing at the moment they’re going to be amazing.”
She added: “Gentoos are monogamous. So if they have a successful breeding season and raise a chick, next year they’re very likely to get back together again because they know that worked for them.”
Homosexual pairings are relatively common in penguins, with many gay penguin couples attracting a human following after their unencumbered relationships attracted attention.
A children’s book that tells the real story of two male penguins raising an egg together is one of the most-banned books in the US.
The book, And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnel, is based of the true story of penguins Roy and Silo, who started a relationship in New York’s Central Park Zoo.
Zookeepers gave the pair an egg to take care of—which hatched into their adoptive son Tango.
In 2012 two gay Gentoo Penguins called Inca and Rayas were given their own egg to rear at Madrid’s Faunia Park after yearning to be parents for six years.
Ireland’s Oceanworld became home to a lesbian penguin couple in 2014, when Penelope and Missy coupled up.
It doesn’t always go to plan, though.
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In 2016, an endangered species breeding programme for king penguins at Berlin Zoo hit a stumbling book after the programme’s two male penguins made clear they were only interested in having sex with eachother.
Toronto zoo also experienced a similar stumbling block with a breeding programme in 2011, controversially attempting to break up gay couple Buddy and Pedro in order to convince them to breed with females.
In 2017 two gay penguins in a Chinese zoo landed in hot water when it emerged they were stealing eggs from straight couples.
Gay penguins at Odense Zoo in Denmark also got into trouble in September 2018, when they kidnapped a baby from two straight penguins who they decided were doing a bad job.
The chick was returned by zookepers to its biological parents, a decision which the gay couple did not take well, fighting to reclaim the chick. They were eventually given their own egg to raise instead.