• Photo for Step Aside, Silo and Roy! Gay German Penguins Have Co-Fathered A Chick
    Photo Credit: iStockPhoto

Step Aside, Silo and Roy! Gay German Penguins Have Co-Fathered A Chick

By L. K. Regan

That penguins are kind of gay has been well established since the New York Central Park Zoo's Silo and Roy hatched little chick Tango and the subsequent book (And Tango Makes Three) made homophobes nation-wide completely lose their wits. Now it's clear that penguins aren't just kind of gay—they are the gayest (moreso even than RealJock members, maybe). And they are also the best dads. At least, that's the news out of Germany this week as the gay penguin parenting phenomenon goes global.

Bremerhaven am Mer Zoo, in northern Germany, has two male Humboldt penguins, Z and Vielpunkt, that have developed a particularly close relationship. In fact, they are one of only three homosexual penguin pairs in the zoo, all of which were over time observed to be attempting to mate with each other and spending months sitting on "eggs" in the form of stones. Since Humboldt penguins are rather severely endangered, the zoo's first response was to attempt an avian dating solution: in 2005 they imported three female penguins from Sweden to try to tempt the errant males. That's right—they tried to "turn" the penguins. This act of socio-sexual experimentation met with angry resistance from LGBT groups and activists, who contacted the zoo to complain that it was being homophobic toward its penguins.

Zoo officials at the time countered that they merely wanted to make sure that the penguins were "really gay," as zoo director Heike Kueck put it, not merely suffering from lack of available females. (In case you are wondering, determining the sex of a Humboldt penguin is no simple matter, and in fact requires DNA testing—so until their penguins failed to reproduce, the zoo had no idea that they had a shortage of females.) "If the penguins really are gay," said Keuek, "then obviously they can stay gay."

Obviously they are just that, and planning to stay that way. Z and Vielpunkt ignored the sultry Swedish females paraded before them and stuck together, leading zoo officials to abandon their original plan and develop an idea for a new experiment: gay parenting. (By the way, new straight male penguins were flown in to satisfy the needs of the abandoned Swedish ladies. Seriously.) In late April, Z and Vielpunkt received an egg that had been abandoned by its parents. Zookeepers placed the egg in the pair's (we're sure beautifully decorated) nest, and stood back to watch. The two male penguins spent 30 days sitting on the egg, keeping it warm until it hatched in May. Since then, they have continued to care for the chick that emerged, though the chick's public appearances are curtailed pending the growth of a full coat of feathers.

As the zoo's website says, "Sex and mating in our world don't always have something to do with reproduction. All the more it delights the zoo that both these fathers, who for so long have chosen one another, have adopted an offspring."

For those longing to learn more about gay penguins (including a discussion of how their sex act compares to the heterosexual variety), here's a video of New York's Silo and Roy, and an interview with their zookeeper: