When we’re young, we receive love from our families, and as we grow older, we begin to seek it from a special someone. But what happens when our special someone doesn’t exactly fit the norm? For many people, this can be a tremendous struggle.
It can also be a struggle for animals! When two male birds met, they became mates almost instantly. Everybody said they were just confused, but the truth behind their special connection was much more touching than that.
Sydney’s Sea Life Aquarium is home to hundreds of different animal species that live in or by the ocean. While most visitors expect to learn about fish, everyone gets excited to catch a glimpse of the Antarctic section to watch the penguins frolic around.
The 4 main types of Antarctic penguin species are Adelie, Emperor, Chinstrap, and Gentoo, but there are many others found in different locations. Sydney’s Sea Life features Emperor penguins, Little Penguins, and Gentoos — including one special duo.
Male penguins Sphen and Magic caught the attention of their caretakers when they became really close before breeding season. They were going for romantic swims together and canoodling.
Most importantly, Sphen brought Magic a special pebble, a sign of penguin mating. This pebble was even shaped like a heart, so it was obvious this romance was meant to be.
When Sphen and Magic started collecting many more pebbles, the Sydney Sea Life personnel began scratching their heads. Why would the two males build a nest when neither of them was going to lay eggs? They decided to conduct a little experiment…
The lovebirds were given a fake egg to test their parenting abilities. Would they keep it warm and safe until it was ready to hatch? Would they refuse to take their eyes and butts off of it, taking turns watching the egg while the other collected more pebbles and food?
It eventually became clear that Sphen and Magic were ready to become dads. Since penguin families usually only have enough resources to raise one chick successfully per breeding season, a mother’s second egg was given to the father-father team.
On October 19, 2018, the egg began to crackle and to wobble. Was it finally time for the Gentoo gentleman to become parents? Would their adopted chick come out healthy, and would it grow up feeling loved?
The little fluffball only weighed 3.2 ounces, but depending on its gender, that could be perfectly normal. It seemed perfectly happy to be born into the Sea Life family, and to have two proud, glowing dads.
This called for a celebration! All the other penguins gathered around to watch the miraculous birth of the latest addition to their waddle, their penguin group on land.
Because penguin chicks are extremely vulnerable for their first few weeks of life, they don’t get named until caretakers are sure they will survive. However, there was nothing to worry about as the feathered fathers were naturals.
Penguins look incredibly similar to one another, so whether they’re male or female only shows through their adult weight and their behavior patterns. In the meantime, the chick has been nicknamed “Sphengic,” after its two devoted papas.
“Baby Sphengic has already stolen our hearts,” Tish Hannan, the aquarium’s dedicated penguin supervisor exclaimed. “We love watching the proud parents doting and taking turns caring for their baby chick.”
While Sphengic and his dads still needed some time to adjust, Sea Life invited visitors to come check out the happy family. “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!”
Australia has been making great strides in LGBT+ rights. On December 9, 2017, same-sex marriage was legalized, and the last jurisdiction to legalize same-sex adoption did so in March of 2018. This was good news for penguins, too…
With ice caps melting, Antarctic penguins will soon become endangered. But publicly accepted egg adoption like this can help them increase their population. Little ones like Tango and Sphengic might be just the beginning of a whole new family lifestyle.
Sphen and Magic aren’t the first same-sex couple in the animal kingdom. Dogs, monkeys, deer, ducks, and several lions have been found to show homosexual tendencies towards each other.
In fact, same-sex partnered penguins have been spotted for years! It all started in 2005 at the Central Park Zoo in New York City. Two male penguins were given a female’s extra egg to care for, inspiring two gay authors to write a children’s book!
Not every same-sex couple is so lucky. Two male chinstraps from the Odense Zoo in Denmark resorted to desperate measures: they kidnapped a chick from another family and kept it as their own!
While baby Sphengic was not yet ready to appear on screen by the end of 2018, we can all enjoy the loving relationship between its dads without having to buy a plane ticket to Australia. Sea Life was generous enough to upload some footage, and it is guaranteed to make you swoon.