'Gay' Spanish penguins who tried in vain to lay an egg, are given egg of their own
EVERY spring for six years Gentoo penguins Inca and Rayas have lovingly built a nest together, only to find that no eggs arrive to fill it. It doesn't seem to have dawned on the couple that both of them are male.
But after the repeated heartbreak of watching other penguins become parents and raise their young, the "gay" couple finally have something to celebrate after their keepers gave them an egg of their own to care for.
Rather than questioning how the improbable scenario arose, the inseparable pair has seized their one chance at fatherhood with the zeal of a couple who know they may not get another.
Inca has taken on the "female" role of incubating the donated egg, obtained by keepers a month ago, and stoically remains atop his prize for most of the day, refusing the temptation to dip his feathers into the water.
His partner Rayas, meanwhile, keeps a watchful guard over the nest while eating whatever he can fit in his beak in preparation for the traditional male job of feeding his young with regurgitated fish.
His keepers report that Rayas has become more anxious due to nervous anticipation of his due date in June, but that the job seems to have made him into a "new penguin", according to The Times.
Yolanda Martin, who cares for the pair, said: "We wanted them to have something to stay together for – so we got an egg. Otherwise they might have become depressed."
The couple drew attention after forming an inseparable bond from the day they met at Faunia Park in Madrid, but the new development has made them a media sensation, topping news bulletins and bringing a welcome ray of sunshine to Spain after weeks of miserable headlines about the country's economic turmoil.
Ms Martin said it was "lovely" to be able to cheer people up but emphasised that the penguins are not actually gay – they are just the best of friends.
The penguins' bundle of joy arrived a year after staff at a zoo in China gave a penguin couple named Adam and Steve a chick to look after last year.
But other "gay" relationships have not ended so happily: Buddy and Pedro, an all-male pairing at Toronto Zoo were put in separate enclosures by keepers who felt they were not making a sufficient contribution to the gene pool.