Love, companionship, and family are powerful things, even in the animal world.  And for Sphen and Magic, two male penguins residing at Australia’s Sea Life Sydney aquarium, nothing could be truer than true.

Just before breeding season in late 2018, these two dashingly tuxedo-clad penguins formed a strong attachment, something that did not go unnoticed by the aquarium’s visitors.  From romantic side-by-side strolls around the enclosure to skinny dipping in the habitat’s chilly pond, the dynamic duo were inseparable. This behavior, according to some of the world’s leading zoologists, is not unheard of.  Penguins, like many animal species, are known to exhibit same-sex attractions and form lifelong homosexual bonds, just as some humans do.

Meanwhile, just on the other side of the enclosure, staff members noticed that most of the other penguin couples were not adjusting well to their newfound life as parents.  According to a recent New York Times article, “[t]hey would get distracted from their nests, go for a swim, or play,” which left the eggs neglected and cold, “likely never to hatch.”

That’s when the their caregivers were struck with a ‘Sphengic-al’  idea.

Photo Credit: Sea Life Sydney

Because Sphen and Magic expressed such tangible fondness and loyalty to one another, aquarium managers wondered what would happen if the pair had the opportunity to care for their own.  So, as part of a unique experiment, they presented the two penguins a dummy egg, and they took to it, revealing just what staff had suspected all along: the two would make amazing penguin parents.  And it wasn’t too long after they were given the opportunity.

As fate would have it, when a “particularly negligent heterosexual penguin couple looked to be leaving an egg exposed [ . . . ] aquarium workers figured they would give it to Sphen and Magic.” 

The rest—as the old saying goes—is history.

For 28 days, the devoted couple took turns warming the egg, until finally, one day in October 2018, it hatched!

Photo Credit: Sea Life Sydney

The now three-month-old female chick, who has been tentatively named Sphengic, “was born on a Friday and weighed 91 grams.” According to aquarium staff, “t was the only chick to have hatched of all the eggs in the colony.”

One reason aquarium personnel say the story has taken Australia and the globe by storm is that it came at a time when the country “had just gone through a bitter battle” concerning the legalization of gay marriage. While the “gay marriage debate had brought out thorny personal and religious tensions [ . . . t]hese two diligent Gentoos, unaware of the political heat around their courtship,” and those of their human counterparts, “became a larger symbol for the country” and served as a hopeful example.  After all, “if a penguin colony could figure this out, a human nation certainly could.”

For more detailed information about Sphen, Magic, and Sphengic, please read the full New York Times article.  Also, you can stay up to date with the trio’s latest news by visiting the Sea Life Sydney website.

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