A gay penguin couple at a zoo in Australia have welcomed a second chick into the world after their parenting skills first made headlines in 2018.
Zookeepers at Sea Life Sydney first noticed Sphen and Magic’s desire to become parents when they spotted them building a nest during the breeding season.
Unfortunately, biology meant the pair wouldn’t have had much luck with their efforts to produce a child, so staff gave them a dummy egg to see how they’d cope. After proving that they have what it takes to be parents, the dummy was replaced with an egg that had been neglected.
Sphen and Magic took great care of the egg and welcomed their first chick, Lara, into the world in October 2018.
Fast-forward two years, and the happy family has now grown by one. The parents cared for another neglected egg after the most recent breeding season, and the chick became one of a number of Gentoo penguin babies that privately hatched in the aquarium’s Sub-Antarctic Zone over the past month.
A spokesperson for Sea Life told Sydney’s Star Observer that penguin pairs sometimes give birth to too many eggs, or they are not good at looking after their eggs.
If that’s the case, staff will sometimes ‘foster these eggs out to other pairs like Sphen and Magic’. The spokesperson explained that the same-sex pair have ‘proven to be good parents in the past’, so staff felt they were could be trusted with incubating another egg.
Kerrie Dixon, Sea Life Sydney Aquarium’s Penguin Supervisor, spoke about the zoo’s new arrivals in a statement, saying:
We are beyond excited to welcome the new penguin chicks to our colony. They are doing really well and gaining weight. They started at around 95 grams, now our oldest is almost 2kg and the youngest is sitting at around 399 grams.
The spokesperson explained that penguins are one of many species in which same-sex relationships occur, and they added that Sea Life Sydney is ‘fortunate to have our own male-male pair’.
Just like our other Gentoo parents, Sphen and Magic are attentive and incredibly caring and we feel privileged to have such an amazing duo in our colony.
Two-year-old Lara is doing well with Sphen and Magic as parents, and she is said to surprise staff ‘everyday with how independent she is’. She attempted to take part in this year’s breeding season by setting up a nest with her partner, but unfortunately they weren’t successful in hatching an egg.
Lara will most likely try again next year, so the zookeepers are looking forward to seeing whether she’ll give Sphen and Magic ‘a little grand penguin chick’.
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Sea Life Sydney Aquarium