Gay penguin dads welcome arrival of baby chick

Yes, you did read that right. Gay. Penguin. Dads.

Gay penguin dads Diego and Zorro welcome new surrogate chick Ponyo!
Image: Instagram via @oceanariumbournemouth

Gay penguin dads Diego and Zorro have welcomed their first-ever little one! The same-sex pair are located in Bournemouth Oceanarium, with baby Ponyo hatching just in time for the local Pride festival taking place this weekend.

These proud parents became surrogates after zookeeper Kat Nicola trialled them with a dummy egg. They were then given a fertilised egg in need of a parent and have since showcased themselves to be quite the parenting experts.

Ponyo, whose gender is yet to be announced, will be spending the first few months of their life off-show to adjust to their surroundings with help from Diego and Zorro.

Speaking about the new parents, Nicola said “The penguins are free to choose who they want to spend quality time with and in their case, they chose each other”.

“The well-being and nurture of these animals is our number one priority and therefore we encourage the penguins to make their own decisions when it comes to choosing their mates”.

Diego and Zorro’s newfound fatherhood situates them within the growing number of same-sex penguin couples that have been acting as surrogate parents for abandoned penguin eggs. They follow the historic legacy left by the iconic pair Roy and Silo, two male chinstrap penguins who began performing mating rituals in New York in 1998.

Roy and Silo were given an egg after zookeepers noticed them trying to hatch a rock and stealing eggs from other couples. They successfully brought Tango into the world. Tango went on to form a sapphic penguin partnership with a female named Tanuzi, remaining together for two mating seasons.

There are also the gay penguin dads of Sydney’s Sea Life aquarium Sphen and Magic, a “power couple” that became dads for the second time in 2021. Proud fathers to Sphenic and newest chick Clancy Carpenter, the pair have celebrated over three years together.

Two male penguins at the Berlin Zoo have also been trying to start their parenthood journey but with little success. 10-year-old king penguins Skipper and Ping showed zookeepers their broodiness by trying to hatch stones and dead fish, before being trusted with an abandoned egg. Unfortunately for the pair, the egg was infertile, leaving their journey unfinished.

Another German couple, Z and Vielpunkt, raised a chick in Bremerhaven zoo in northern Germany after it was rejected by its biological parents.

It’s not only the male penguins getting in on the action. Lesbian surrogate mothers have also been making a splash in the animal kingdom. Supermoms Electra and Viola, a bonded pair of Gentoo penguins at Oceanogràfic València in Spain. They began the mating process by exchanging stones before becoming proud adoptive parents.

In late 2019, mothers Rocky and Marama hatched a baby Gentoo penguin at Sea Life Aquarium in London. They made further waves after the aquarium announced that the chick would not be assigned a gender, like penguins in the wild.

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