- However zoo keepers may help the dominant male couple rear a chick in future.
Two male penguins in Amersfoort Zoo in the Netherlands will remain childless despite trying to hatch an egg together.
That’s because the egg they stole from another couple wasn’t fertilized. In fact, it may have been from a same-sex female couple.
The pair of ‘gay’ male penguins made headlines at the end of 2019, when they stole the egg from other penguins in an unguarded moment.
Both homosexuality and egg stealing are fairly common in the penguin world. However, penguins’ popularity means that same-sex couples in captivity often make international headlines.
Now, months later, keepers at DierenPark, Amersfoort zoo confirm the couple are still without a little chick. They have now concluded the stolen egg wasn’t fertilized.
The keepers can’t be sure which female penguin laid it. However zookeeper Sander Drost said: ‘We also had a lesbian couple at the time. It could be that they stole it from that couple. And of course they are not fertilized.’
But despite their failure to start a family, the pair of penguins remain a happy couple. Indeed, Drost says they are quite dominant:
‘Every couple has a house in the residence, but this couple has appropriated two houses.’
And he’s not ruling out helping them on their way to fatherhood:
‘If we have a penguin couple with fertilized eggs, where something happens that prevents them from hatching it themselves, then we can also surrender those eggs to such a gay couple.’
Same-sex penguin couples around the world
However, while this is the first time Valencia has observed the phenomenon, it is not uncommon.
Indeed, Electra and Viola are just the latest in a long line of famous penguin parents from zoos and aquariums all around the world.
Experts estimate that anything from 5% to 10% of penguins in zoos around the world are in same-sex pair bonds.
Last year, the Dingle Oceanworld Aquarium in Kerry, Ireland confirmed that out of its 15 Gentoo penguins, eight of them are in same-sex relationships.
Last year London Zoo’s same-sex penguin couples even joined in the city’s Pride.
Moreover, in February 2019, two humboldt penguins, Ferrari and Pringle, even got married in England. The ceremony – or press stunt – in Chipping Norton made headlines around the world.
Why some animals are gay or bi
Homosexuality and bisexuality is thought to exist in almost all – if not all – animal species. Though, of course, homophobia and biphobia are only seen in one.
Giraffes are most likely to display same-sex attraction.
However scientists have observed gay sex in everything from bugs to bats and flamingos to killer whales.
Any animal from the smallest fruit fly to the largest elephant may take part. Moreover, around 60% of sex in bonobo chipanzees, our closest animal relatives, is gay.
There are many reasons why homosexuality comes naturally to animals.
Some species have an exclusively same-sex phase at some point in their lives – though they won’t always stay ‘gay’ forever. Others are completely bisexual.
A lot of species have a harem system and junior males, filled with testosterone, turn to each other while the dominant male controls the females. Sometimes it’s the ruling female stopping her competitors from mating.
There are also times when it seems like it might be a mistake – frogs in the mating season often attempt to have sex with the first stranger they see.
Scientists speculate that same-sex attracted ‘uncles’ and ‘aunts’ help other members of their family group raise young. This passes on their genes indirectly.
Another theory suggests that same-sex activity helps animals learn how to mate – making them better at it.