Published: 2009/06/03 17:50:18 GMT

'Gay penguins' rear adopted chick

Two "gay" male penguins have hatched a chick and are now rearing it 
as its adoptive parents, says a German zoo.

The zoo, in Bremerhaven, northern Germany, says the adult males - Z 
and Vielpunkt - were given an egg which was rejected by its 
biological parents.

It says the couple are now happily rearing the chick, said to have 
reached four weeks old.

The zoo made headlines in 2005 over plans to "test" the sexual 
orientation of penguins with homosexual traits.

Three pairs of male penguins had been seen attempting to mate with 
each other and trying to hatch offspring from stones.

The zoo flew in four females in a bid to get the endangered birds to 
reproduce - but quickly abandoned the scheme after causing outrage 
among gay rights activists, who accused it of interfering in the 
animals' behaviour.

The six "gay" penguins remain at the zoo, among them Z and Vielpunkt 
who are now rearing the chick together after being given the rejected 

"Z and Vielpunkt, both males, gladly accepted their 'Easter gift' and 
got straight down to raising it," said a zoo statement.

"Since the chick arrived, they have been behaving just as you would 
expect a heterosexual couple to do. The two happy fathers spend their 
days attentively protecting, caring for and feeding their adopted 

Humboldt penguins are normally found in coastal Peru and Chile, but 
their numbers have been dwindling due to overfishing, reports the AFP 
news agency.

'Drive to mate'

There have been previous reports of exclusive male-to-male pairings 
among penguins, some of which have also included the rearing of 

Homosexual behaviour is well documented in many different animals, 
but it is not understood in detail, says Professor Stuart West, an 
evolutionary biologist at the University of Oxford.

Professor West says it has been suggested that homosexual activity 
could serve various purposes - for instance, it may relate to social 
bonding and establishment of dominance among bonobo chimps, while in 
some bird species, females may come together to rear young.

Other animals may simply exhibit a "drive to mate", while others may, 
like humans, enjoy non-procreative sexual activity.

"Homosexuality is nothing unusual among animals," Bremerhaven zoo 
said on Wednesday.

"Sex and coupling up in our world do not necessarily have anything to 
do with reproduction."