Two male swans at Melbourne Zoo are having a crack at parenthood together, with zookeepers providing the pair with 3D printed eggs to support their relationship.
Swans Billy and Elliot reside in Melbourne Zoo’s billabong. They have shown mating calls between each other and recently built a nest together.
Zoo keepers want to keep the couple happy and responded to the pair’s relationship, by providing eggs to mimic the natural habitat and support their natural instincts.
‘Courtship’ Between Two Swans
The zoo rescued Billy and Elliot after they were attacked by dogs and unable to be returned to the wild due to their injuries.
The swans have since been very close, with Zoo keepers acknowledging the pair have coupled up after showing typical courtship signs over the Spring season.
Melbourne Zoo posted the news to Facebook, with Bird Keeper Ben explaining, “This is something you do see in wild swans, two boys can pair up.”
“This got the bird team thinking about ways that we could provide an opportunity to have reproductive behaviour as part of their behavioural repertoire,” Ben continued.
“As well as courtship behaviours, Billy and Elliot have also constructed a wonderful Nest on the edge of their Billabong and we wanted to provide them with some eggs.”
Printing The Eggs
Zoo volunteer Guy said this isn’t the first time the zoo has printed 3D eggs, saying the illusion of the eggs is important to support the health of the animals.
“The eggs aren’t necessarily just about making babies, they’re actually a part of the behaviours that are being built into those birds,” Guy explains.
Since providing the eggs, with keepers secretly placing them into the couple’s nest, they have been very protective. The swans have been seen checking in on the eggs, as well as honking to scare off potential threats, which Guy says is a “really important behaviour” for the pair.
Despite showing a lot of interest in the eggs and protecting them, Ben said they did not sit on them this year.
“It’s something that we’re still gonna keep working on and we’re going to offer to them again next season.”
Thousands Of Same-Sex Couples In Nature
Same-sex couples have been reported throughout the animal kingdom, with a recent study observing the common behaviour in over 1,500 animal species.
The report published from Nature Communications in October says that same-sex couples are seen within insects, vertebrates and mammals.
They also noted that “at least 51 species” of lemurs and apes have shown a tendency for the behaviour.
Following the research within the report, the theory behind why there are so many same-sex couples is to establish and maintain “positive social relationships.”
Other theories also suggest the behaviour is to “communicate social status” and “reinforce dominance hierarchies,” preventing conflicts.
Noting that is a “peaceful” behaviour, the wildlife agrees that being gay is unproblematic and 100 percent natural.