Breeding season has commenced at Sea Life Sydney Aquarium, which has seen the formation of its first same-sex penguin couple – Sphen and Magic.
The pair began to develop a strong bond and became inseparable before breeding season, and are always seen spending time together, whether waddling around the exhibit or going for swims.
Sphen and Magic are Gentoo penguins, a breed which keeps their eggs warm on pebble nesting rings throughout the exhibit, which the aquarium says was inspired by Macquarie Island.
Couples trade duties between incubation and patrolling the nest to ensure their pebbles aren’t stolen and to keep an eye on nosy neighbours.
To make sure they weren’t excluded, the pair were given a dummy egg with which to practice their incubation skills.
The team at Sea Life Sydney saw that they were naturals and thrilled to be given the chance to parent, so they were given a real egg to raise, fostered from another couple who had two.
Magic is the younger of the pair and is still working on his skills, but Sphen – a natural daddy – is already a master.
The aquarium says there are days when the egg can’t be seen, which is a great indication for penguin breeding.
Sea Life Sydney Aquarium’s Gentoo Penguin breeding program hopes to follow in the path of sister aquarium, Sea Life Melbourne Aquarium’s Penguin breeding program, which after six consecutive years is amongst the most successful in the world.
Gay penguin couples are quite common, with a pair at a Denmark zoo last month briefly ‘kidnapping’ a chick they thought was being neglected.
And last year a gay penguin couple were found stealing eggs from straight penguin couples at a zoo in China.
In 2004, a penguin pair named Roy and Silo were observed at New York’s Central Park Zoo trying to hatch a rock.
Zookeepers gave the pair an egg of their own to raise, with the baby – named Tango – hatching successfully.
The rainbow penguin family later inspired a children’s book called And Tango Makes Three.
Watch a video of Sphen and Magic canoodling below. Watch for the adorable little bow at the end!