The 'adorable' gay penguins who adopted a baby chick

A Chinese zoo creates an unusual family by fulfilling the apparent dream of two male penguins who just wanted a kid  

A pair of Adelie penguins: Chinese zookeepers have allowed two "gay" penguins to adopt a chick from a female penguin who was struggling to care for both of her twins.
(Image credit: Steven Kazlowski/Science Faction/Corbis)

In November, Toronto Zoo officials sparked an international outcry by (temporarily) separating the apparently gay penguin couple Buddy and Pedro. Now, Chinese zookeepers are making their Canadian colleagues look downright intolerant. Harbin Polar Land in northern China already threw a lavish wedding in 2009 for its own popular same-sex penguin couple, and now zookeepers have allowed the pair to adopt a newborn penguin chick. Here, a brief guide to Polar Land's 'adorable' new family:

How do the zookeepers know the couple wanted to adopt?

The male penguins, named 0310 and 067 — ugh, let's call them "Adam and Steve," says Erin Skarda at TIME — were notorious for trying to steal eggs from heterosexual penguin couples. The zookeepers let them try their hand at babysitting, and their success with kids was a big reason Polar Land embraced the pair and had them waddle down the aisle. "They have been a good couple and deserved their reward," said one keeper at the time, according to Britain's The Sun.

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Where did they get the adoptive hatchling?

A female penguin at the zoo gave birth to twins in late November — a rarity among penguins — and she was struggling to care for both chicks. Newborn penguins require a lot of care and protection, and when there are twins, one of the hatchlings can be in danger, says Kevin McGowan at Cornell University's Laboratory of Ornithology.

Will these penguins really be able to raise the chick?

Sure, says McGowan. "In birds, it doesn't matter what sex you are," he tells ABC News. "It's not like mammals where only one sex can feed." And there's a good chance that the baby penguin will eventually view Adam and Steve as its two dads. "All penguins have parenting instincts," says Liz Langley at Sexis, "so chances seem good that little... whatever this tiny tot's name is... Cain... Abel... 0493... will do just fine."

Are Adam and Steve really gay?

It's unclear. In a 2010 study of penguins in Antarctica, researchers discovered that about a quarter of the colony was in same-sex, mostly male-male, couples — at least for awhile. In time, most paired up with a female, leading the team to conclude that the males had just been "lonely." Maybe that's what happened with the most famous gay penguin parents, Silo and Roy at New York's Central Park Zoo — the subject of a children's book, And Tango Makes Three — who split up when Silo ditched Roy for a female.

Sources: ABC News, Huffington Post, New York Times, Sexis, Sun, Telegraph, TIME

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