Gay Penguin Couples Galore at Irish Zoo

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Thursday May 9, 2019

Reports of penguins of the same gender in long-lasting relationships have made headlines over the years, with one famous pair even inspiring a children's book. Just last year, an Australian same-sex penguin couple became a star attraction at their aquarium when they were given an egg to foster and proved to be devoted parents as well as committed life partners.

But at Oceanworld, an aquarium in the Irish city of Dingle, more than half the penguins, it turns out, have settled down with partners of the same gender, reports Irish Mirror.

The aquarium's penguin population are Gentoo, the same kind of penguins as Sphen and Magic, the male couple at the Sea Life attraction at Sydney Aquarium in Australia who adopted an egg from a mixed-gender couple who had two. Penguins usually only have a single egg, and when they have more than one, the second egg often perishes because the parents focus so much time tending the first egg.

The Irish Mirror took notice of the fact that the increase in same-sex penguin couples at the aquarium came about after Ireland legalized marriage equality for gay and lesbian families.

Referencing a famed American penguin couple, the animal manager at Ocean World, Louise Overy, said, "In New York City zoo a gay penguin couple reared a chick and that made international headlines because they were seen as the only gay penguin couple in the world — and yet we have four couples here in our place," the Irish Mirror reported.

A Big Apple newspaper didn't shy away from reporting the news, with the New York Post covering the story — though it also tipped a hat to Silo and Roy, the male penguins in Central Park that raised a chick named Tango and became the basis for a popular children's book.

Overy mentioned one crucial difference between male and female pairs of penguins: When the guys get together and want a chick, they have to hope someone will find them an egg to foster. But when female pairs want a young addition, Overy said, they "will take action" and "waddle over to a male to do what needs to be done and rear the chick with their female partner."

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.