SUSTAINABILITY
27/08/2020 9:23 AM AEST | Updated 27/08/2020 9:49 AM AEST

Female Penguins Become New Mums After Adopting Egg Together

Same-sex couple Electra and Viola, a pair of gentoo penguins, are raising their chick at the Oceanogràfic València aquarium in Spain.

Congratulations are in order for new penguin mums Electra and Viola.

The two female gentoo penguins welcomed a chick this month at an aquarium in Valencia, Spain, after successfully adopting, incubating and raising the egg from another couple, according to a press release from Oceanogràfic València.

According to the aquarium, the two birds had begun to exhibit common breeding behaviours and started to build a nest together. When keepers observed their parenting instincts, they decided to transfer them a fertile egg from another penguin pair.

The new chick is one of three that’s hatched so far this breeding season in the colony of 25 gentoo penguins.

Penguin parents put great care into building their nests from pebbles and stones and defending them, the zoo said. They usually lay two eggs, and parents share the responsibility of incubating them by taking turns each day.

After the chicks hatch, it takes them roughly 75 days to become independent.

The two mums are a first at Oceanogràfic València. But while Electra and Viola are an “exceptional pair,” the aquarium noted, it’s not unusual for penguins and many other animal species to form same-sex couplings.

In Australia in 2018, two male gentoo penguins named Sphen and Magic at the Sea Life Sydney Aquarium became “inseparable” before breeding season and began to build and protect their own nest. Seeing this, keepers gave them a dummy egg, which they nurtured with great care. The zoo said the two were “absolute naturals,” so Sphen and Magic were given an egg from another couple that had two, and they successfully incubated, hatched and raised their baby girl Sphengic. 

At the time, the supervisor of the aquarium’s penguin department, Tish Hannan, told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation that gentoo penguins had strong parenting instincts but would normally raise just one chick in the wild.

“A lot of the time the gentoo penguins don’t have enough resources to raise both of those chicks,” she said.

“Both males and females have a strong urge to be parents and they share that parental responsibility 100 per cent between the two — it doesn’t matter if they have a male-male or female-female pair.”

Zoos in London and Berlin have also had same-sex penguin couples.

Watch footage of the new family below.