Spanish Zoo Makes ’Gay’ Penguins Proud Parents
A zoo in Madrid, Spain, recently gave a "gay" penguin couple an egg to watch over after the pair built nests together in hopes of finding a egg, ABC News reported.
For six years zookeepers at Faunia Park have been unable to separate Inca and Rayas. This year they decided to make the penguins parents and give the couple an egg to take care of.
"We wanted them to have something to stay together for - so we got an egg," zookeeper Yolanda Martin told the British newspaper the Telegraph. "Otherwise they might have become depressed."
The article notes that the birds aren’t "actually gay" but "more like best friends, living cooperatively because they’re" in the same habitat.
"When you put things in captivity, odd things happen," Kevin McGowan of the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology in Ithaca, N.Y., told ABCNews.com. "The way penguins work is they do get paired for a long time. Basically, the only other penguin they care about is their mate, so it’s important for them to find somebody who’s compatible, and if you don’t have a normal upbringing then it’s difficult to say how ’normal’ they can be."
The penguins quickly took to the egg and slipped into parenting roles. Inca acts as the "female" as he spends most of his time sitting on the egg. Rayas is the "male" in the relationship and makes sure the egg is not harmed. He also stores food in his beak so he can properly feed the baby when it finally hatches.
"In birds, it doesn’t matter what sex you are. Both sexes are perfectly capable and absolutely necessary to raise a penguin bird," McGowan said. "It’s not like mammals where only one sex can feed."
Inca and Rayas aren’t the first "gay" penguin couple. In June 2009, it was reported that a pair of male penguins in a German zoo started to care for an egg that was rejected by its biological mother. The "gay" penguins, Z and Vielpunkt, eventually hatched the egg and are raising the chick.
Not all "gay" penguins are able to have a public relationship, however. In November of last year zookeepers from a Canadian zoo separated a male couple and placed them with female penguins in hopes that they would breed.
Buddy and Pedro of the Toronto Zoo protected each others turf, slept together and made mating calls to one another. The zoo’s officials say that the African penguins were starting a courtship and began mating behavior that would normally be seen between male and female penguins.
"It’s a complicated issue, but they seem to be in a loving relationship of some sort,’’ the chair of the Toronto Zoo board, Joe Torzsok, told the Toronto Star.
Once Buddy and Pedro mate, however, the couple will be reunited again.