Two Penguins in Spanish Zoo Now Same-Sex Parents

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Thursday August 20, 2020

A female pair of Gentoo penguins in a Spanish zoo were exhibiting behavior that indicated they were ready for parenthood - so the staff gave them an egg. Now that the egg has hatched, the couple are "exceptional" parents, reports UK newspaper the Daily Mail.

Same-sex penguin couples are nothing new and have been observed all over the world. What's more, when it comes to fostering adopted eggs, the couples consistently prove themselves to be just as dedicated to parenthood as their heterosexual peers.

Many of the same-sex penguin couples that hit the headlines are male, like chinstrap penguins Roy and Silo (whose little family inspired the children's book "And Tango Makes Three"), who lived at the Central Park Zoo in New York. King penguins Skipper and Ping took in an abandoned egg at the Berlin Zoo last year. And Sphen and Magic, a Gentoo penguin male couple at Sea Life Aquarium in Sydney, Australia, fostered two eggs in back-to-back seasons in 2018 and 2019.

But female penguin couples have also been known to adopt eggs. A female Gentoo penguin couple at Sealife London Aquarium fostered an egg last year, though in that case, the headlines took note of how the staff there declined to impose a gender assignment on the chick when it hatched - not because the chick had no gender, but because it's not possible for staff to determine the gender of penguins before they reach maturity.

Now Electra and Viola, who reside at a zoo in Valencia, Spain, prove once again that the ladies aren't slouches in the egg fostering department. Staff at the zoo observed the couple building a nest out of stones - a sign that they were "broody," or ready to undertake the responsibilities of tending an egg and, when it hatches, a chick. the staff acted accordingly, and gave the couple an egg to call their own.

"Same-sex couples are common in more than 450 species in nature, although this is the aquarium's first same-sex couple," the Daily Mail noted.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.