Same-Sex Penguin Couple Nabs Egg from Straight Neighbors

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Tuesday November 19, 2019

A case of eggnapping? Or just a couple of would-be dads so excited at the prospect of parenthood that they straight-up went for it? Either way, the same-sex penguin couple at Amersfoort Zoo in the Netherlands has the world watching to see if the egg is fertile - which will allow them to become dads - or whether the egg has not been fertilized, in which case the guys will have to wait until next mating season, at least, to pursue the goal of parenthood.

It's not unknown for same-sex penguin couples to attempt to foster stones or other egg-like objects, and mono gender couples will even occasionally "rescue" chicks that heterosexual couples have left momentarily unattended, as happened last year at Odense Zoo in Denmark when a male couple, taking notice of a chick that had been left on its own, seized the moment... and the youngster.

The couple "thought the chick's mom and dad were being neglectful," explained zookeeper Sandie Hedgegard Munck.

"I think the female had been out to get her bath, and then it had been the male's turn to care for the kid," Minck added. "He may have then left, and then the couple had thought, "It's a pity, we'll take it." ' "

When the mixed-gender couple returned and noticed their chick missing, they began to search for it; the male couple, unwilling to return the check to "neglectful" parents, took pains to keep the chick out of their sight. Zoo staffers eventually stepped in to return the chick to its parents.

In the case of the Dutch penguin couple, they will be allowed to keep the egg they made off with in a caper that seems to have taken place under everybody's noses. The mixed-gender couple doesn't miss it; they already have a new one to tend to, and penguins generally are only able to take care of one egg at a time.

So far, the Dutch couple is doing a good job. As zookeeper Marc Belt said to Dutch publication, "The gay couple are looking after the egg very well and take turns in keeping it warm."

Added Belt, "Homosexuality is fairly common in penguins, but what makes this couple remarkable is that they have gotten hold of an egg," Newsweek reported.

Penguins are among the most dedicated parents in all the animal kingdom. Last year Sphen and Magic, an Australian pair of male penguins at Sydney Aquarium's Sea Life attraction, captured hearts around the world when they fostered and hatched an egg.

The couple builds a nest of pebbles, just as other couples were doing, and when they were provided with a "dummy egg" to care for they took right to it. Impressed, the staff provided them with a real egg, which came from a couple that had two eggs to care for. Happy families all around were the end result when Sphen and Magic hatched a healthy female chick. This mating season, Sphen and Magic appeared eager to repeat the parenting process and were given another egg to tend to.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Assistant Arts Editor. He also reviews theater for WBUR. 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.

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