Gay Penguin Parenting

SUBHEAD: A gay penguin pair adopt an egg to raise as their own. And this is not so unusual. By Stephen Messenger on 22 May 2012 for TreeHugger - ( Image above: A pair of penguins kissing at Cotswold Wildlife Park. From ( By all accounts, Inca and Rayas are just like any other Humboldt penguin couple -- loyal, affectionate, and family oriented -- but until recently, the same-sex pair's literal love nest seemed bound to be empty.

Last winter, the two male birds housed at the Madrid Zoo's Faunia Park made headlines in Spain by entering into a rare, but not unheard of, 'gay' penguin relationship. So, when the breeding season approached and an amorous spirit spread among their peers, Inca and Rayas worked together to prepare for the arrival of an offspring, apparently unaware of the nuts and bolts of reproduction.

But as the other preening penguin couples around them began to lay eggs and share in the duties of incubation, keepers say Inca and Rayas seemed a bit sullen and confused by their empty nest:

"They love each other as if they were male and female, courting each other the same," one zoo staffer told a Spanish news outlet. "But what they want is what they lack: to raise a chick."

Faced with this rather heartbreaking scene, last month zookeepers hatched a plan to help Inca and Rayas have a hatchling of their own. As it turns out, one of the zoo's breeding females had laid two eggs this season, one of which would have likely been abandoned -- so the keepers decided to offer it to the hapless penguin pair.

Keepers say that at first Inca and Rayas looked a bit nervous to suddenly be with child, but it didn't take long for them to welcome their new arrival with open wings, doting upon the adopted egg like any good expecting parents would.

"Inca (who's assumed the more motherly role) has yet to leave the nest. This is his first egg and he doesn't want to drop it," says their keeper. "He doesn't move even while we offer the best fish in the world."

Zoo staff expect the egg, so happily adopted by Inca and Rayas, to hatch within a week -- bringing with it renewed hopes of survival for their threatened species, and a reminder that the fruits of love most often grow sweetest when given a chance to grow.

Gay Penguins are not Gay Kyle Munkittrick on 6 June 2012 for Pop Bioethics - ( [IB editor's note: This article used the same Wikipedia graphic to illustrate "gay" penguins three years earlier.]

At least not the way the internet has made it out to be. The Humbolt penguins at the German zoo, Bremerhaven, that have been “male-male” mating bonding and have been raising donor chicks are being portrayed as “gay” birds. The whole obsession with penguins is something I relate to – I used to doodle “Super Penguin” comics in my elementary school notebook – and this news is particularly funny after the breathless endorcement of March of the Penguins was given by conservative groups as a defence of marriage.

Describing the penguins as “gay” isn’t very accurate because, a) in general most penguins are “monogomous” meaning they’ll pair off with a single partner per mating season, but will often have a new partner the next year and b) if Foucault taught us nothing else, that sexuality is constructed so much so that homosexuality was, in a sense, invented at the turn of the century, it seems ridiculous to describe a species with season-to-season pair bonding with the word “gay.” Gay has too many implications socially and has been misappropriated in scientific work far too often.

What the gay penguin story has shown, however, is that same-sex bonding and mating behavior exists among this breed of penguin. More important, same-sex pairs can successfully raise a healthy chick when provided an egg. Of course, the correlation to humans is an easy one to draw, but I don’t think it is useful for the political debate of same-sex adoption. Gay adoption is ethical and should be allowed because the current arguments against it don’t hold water, not because a couple of penguins in a zoo hinted that it might not be as “unnatural” as antagonists claim.


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