A heart-stopping gay penguin couple has become the perfect pair of surrogate parents for a baby chick.
The penguins adopted the chick at the Oceanarium, Bournemouth, after it was hatched on 12 May by the loved-up seabirds Diego and Zorro.
Keeper Kat Nicola decided to give the couple a fertilised egg after they successfully incubated a dummy egg.
“It has been Diego and Zorro’s second time fostering and once again they have smashed it, becoming quite the experts at parenting,” she said.
The team at the Oceanarium noticed the pair’s spark in 2017, watching the early stages of their bond grow into one of the cutest same-sex relationships in the county of Dorset.
“The penguins are free to choose who they want to spend quality time with and in their case, they chose each other,” Nicola continued. “The well-being and nurture of these animals is our number one priority and therefore we encourage the penguins to make their own decisions when it comes to choosing their mates.”
Their chick, whose gender is yet to be identified, will spend their first few months off-show so that the happy family can become well-adjusted to their surroundings.
Humboldt penguins are one of several species where same-sex couples are common. Originally from the coast of Chile and Peru, they are classified as a “vulnerable” species in the wild for reasons including habitat loss.
As part of an effort to tackle their decline, the Oceanarium is supporting the Punta San Juan program, a conservation movement aiming to save vital populations of seabirds including Inca terns, Guanay cormorants and Humboldt penguins.
Both Diego and Zorro will join other iconic gay penguin families like Sphen and Magic from the Sea Life Aquarium in Sydney who hatched their first chick in 2018. The couple then hatched another in 2021, with the aquarium holding a competition for the public to name their new chick.
In the same year, an “inseparable” same-sex pelican couple from Miami, Florida, celebrated their 18th anniversary in a wildlife rehab centre. The staff noticed the pelicans had fallen in love after they began building a nest together.