Two homosexual penguins have successfully hatched an egg and are now proudly rearing the chick, a German zoo has said. The zoo, in Bremerhaven, northern Germany, says the adult males – Z and Vielpunkt – were given an egg which was rejected by its biological parents.
It says the couple are now happily rearing the chick, which has reached four weeks old.
“Z and Vielpunkt, both males, gladly accepted their ‘Easter present’ and began straight away with hatching the egg,” said a statement from the zoo.
“Since the chick arrived they are behaving in the same way as one would expect a heterosexual couple to do. Both happy fathers are now diligently handling the everyday care … of their adopted offspring,” the zoo said.
Z and Vielpunkt are part of a six-strong gay community among the zoo’s collection of endangered Humboldt penguins who rose to fame in 2005 when four Swedish females were brought in an unsuccessful, and controversial, attempt to “cure” them.
Three pairs of male penguins had been seen attempting to mate with each other and trying to hatch offspring from stones.
“Homosexuality is nothing unusual among animals,” the zoo said. “Sex and coupling up in our world do not necessarily have anything to do with reproduction.”
The Humboldt penguin is normally found on the coast of Chile and Peru, but numbers have dropped to between 12,000 and 20,000 as industrial fishing methods have led to dwindling stocks of the anchovies on which they feed.
There have been previous reports of exclusive male-to-male pairings among penguins, some of which have also included the rearing of chicks.
Other animals may simply exhibit a “drive to mate”, while others may, like humans, enjoy non-procreative sexual activity.