Two bonded male penguins in a Chinese zoo have been given a baby chick to raise.
The couple, apparently notorious at the Harbin Polar Land Aquarium for trying to steal the eggs of other penguins, became surrogate parents after a female penguin at the zoo hatched two eggs. Given that penguins tend to have a better success rate with just one chick, staff thought that in order to give both chicks the best chance of survival it would be a good idea to split them up.
As such the infamous egg-stealing male couple seemed like ideal candidates for rearing one of the chicks, and zoo keepers are confident that, all being well, they will do a fine job.
“It’s a big job creating a baby penguin. It’s definitely a two-penguin job,” Kevin McGowan of the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology in Ithaca, N.Y., told ABCNews.com.
“The [heterosexual] pairs do a display of bringing a pebble, passing it back and forth. The interaction gets the birds going and synchronized for breeding season,” McGowan said.
“If [the 'gay' penguins] are doing the same kind of thing, they could be passing the pebble and ready to roll.”
While McGowan said there is no guarantee that the new parents in China will take to the chick, it is a likely possibility that they will not be able to resist.
“A begging baby is a strong stimulus for anyone,” McGowan said.
The irony of China making the headlines over this pair of bonded male penguins while LGBT rights remains a taboo in the country is lost on no one. The Chinese government has most recently had to answer accusations that it has been censoring China’s social networks and in particular any information relating to China’s LGBT community.
Our Chinese couple must share the limelight however, as they are in fact the second male penguin couple to hit the headlines in these past months.
Recently, the Internet was abuzz when Toronto Zoo announced that it planned to split up a penguin same-sex couple, Buddy and Pedro, so they might breed.
After a strong public outcry, including a petition signed by over 2,000 Care2 members, Toronto Zoo reassured the public that Buddy and Pedro would be reunited in the spring when they have been given the opportunity to further the struggling African chinstrap species.
Reintroducing the pair, however, does not guarantee they will bond again, so many still feel this forced separation to be unjust.
Image is *not* of Harbin Polar Land Aquarium pair and is meant for illustration purposes only. Image used under the Creative Commons Attribution License with thanks to Adam Foster.