It’s The Stonewall Inn for penguins.
Zookeepers at the Oceanworld Aquarium in Dingle, Ireland have revealed that eight of their 14 Gentoo penguin residents are in same-sex relationships. Coincidentally, their population of homosexual penguins leapt from just two to eight following the legalization of gay marriage in Ireland in 2015.
“We have had a gay couple here before. Five years ago Penelope and Misty got plenty of coverage but we never expected it to catch on,” Oceanworld animal manager Louise Overy tells the Irish Mirror. Since then, their homosexual population has quadrupled to two lesbian and two male-gay pairs.
“They woo each other with stones which the other partner uses to build a nest,” says Overy, who also explains that male and female penguins appear identical, and are only identified during mating. “The only way we know is when we see them mating and not producing chicks.”
But jealous penguin partners won’t stand in the way of evolutionary progress: Overy adds that lesbian penguins will “do what needs to be done” with male penguins in order to produce a chick she can raise with her lesbian partner. “They have maternal instincts the same as humans do.”
Male and female penguins are unique as they do not separate parenting responsibilities by gender, instead taking equal part in parenting duties, which may explain why, as a 2010 study revealed, penguins may engage in same-sex flirting simply out of convenience and a lack of options.
Homosexual penguin couples have been known to go back to their skirt-chasing ways, such as Roy and Silo at New York’s Central Park Zoo, who split after six years together when Silo took up with new girl in town Scrappy. Before that, the same-sex pair helped rear baby penguin Tango, whose story inspired the 2005 children’s book “And Tango Makes Three.”