A gay couple in Sydney are now proud parents. They’re also penguins.
Magic and Sphen (known collectively as “Sphengic”) are a male bonded pair sub-Antarctic gentoo penguins at Sydney’s Sea Life Aquarium. The fact that Magic and Sphen are gay isn’t all that unusual--homosexuality in penguins is a well-documented phenomenon. What is unusual is that Magic and Sphen are now adoptive parents.
Earlier this month, Sphengic were given a dummy egg to see if the pair’s bond was strong enough to rear a child. After successfully completing their trial period, they were ready for the real thing. They were given an egg to foster from another gentoo couple in the aquarium (gentoo penguins typically only have the resources for one chick, so the “spare” often dies of starvation) and a few weeks later that chick hatched.
On Friday, October 19th, at around 5:45 PM, Sphen and Magic welcomed a new gentoo chick into the world. At 91 grams (or 3.21 oz), the baby chick doesn’t have a name yet, but Sphen and Magic are co-parenting "exceptionally well" according to aquarium staff.
In the wild, straight gentoo penguins share parenting duties equally between the male and female, with both swapping feeding and incubation duties daily. Sphengic were seen to share that same behavior with their foster egg and subsequent chick, both taking turns incubating and then feeding their new baby.
“Baby Sphengic has already stolen our hearts! We love watching the proud parents doting and taking turns caring for their baby chick,” said Tish Hannan, penguin department supervisor at Sea Life Sydney Aquarium. “With that said, the first 20 days of a penguin chick’s life are the most vulnerable so it is extra important the chick is very happy, healthy and well fed by his parents.
“We can’t wait for the world to fall in love with Baby Sphengic like they did with our amazing same-sex couple, Sphen and Magic!”
Doting dads Magic and Sphen welcome baby chick pic.twitter.com/CH8nQh5Qrw— Reuters Top News (@Reuters) October 26, 2018
The new chick will stay with their dads for the next 5-6 weeks, being fed by alternating father figures up to 10 times per day. At around the 6-week mark, the chick will start to lose her baby fluff and develop her adult feathers. Then it’s time for daddy swimming lessons.
Sydney Aquarium was also quick to point out that they’re hardly the first aquarium to feature same-sex penguin parents. New York’s Central Park Zoo made international headlines in 1999 after a same-sex couple of chinstrap penguins--Roy and Silo--successfully hatched and raised a baby of their own. Their story eventually inspired the children’s picture book, And Tango Makes Three, named after the baby that Roy and Silo reared together.
Since then, the feat of same-sex penguin parents has been accomplished by multiple other zoos and aquariums throughout the world.