Watch: Gay Penguin Couple Kidnap Chick, Get Egg of Their Own to Raise

A gay king penguin couple at the Odense Zoo in Denmark kidnapped a penguin chick from another couple, likely after witnessing the couple neglect their baby.

Sandie Hedegård Munck, a zookeeper, told the Danish broadcaster DR that the female penguin had gone to get a bath, and so the male penguin was supposed to watch the chick. But the male penguin seems to have left the chick alone.

“In the wild, the natural behavior is that up until a certain age, one of the parents will always be with the chick,” Dyan deNapoli, a penguin expert, TED speaker, and author told Newsweek. For example, as one parent is off catching fish, the other will be protecting the egg.

After the gay couple kidnapped the chick, the father walked around as if it had never had a child and the mother searched for the chick.

This is not the first time a penguin chick kidnapping has occurred. “It does happen both in the wild and in zoos and aquariums. It's unusual, but it does happen from time to time,” deNapoli said. In emperor penguins, for example, a female penguin may kidnap another penguin's chick for a short period if her own child is missing or dead. Seeing gay couples in the wild is also not unheard of. But males and females look alike so it can be hard to tell the difference between them.

In 1911, Dr. George Murray Levick made the first known record of homosexual penguin couples in the wild, detailed in a 2012 publication from Cambridge University Press. Those penguins were Adélie penguins, a species found in Antarctica.

A 2010 study published in the journal Ethology analyzed 53 pairs of king penguins. Of those penguins, 28.3 percent of the birds were showing signs of courtship and mating with birds of the same sex, though many eventually ended up with an opposite-sex partner. Of those couples, two homosexual pairs had learned the song of their partner, which is an important step in the pairing process.

The zookeepers at the Odense Zoo eventually took the chick back from the gay couple and brought it to its original parents, which led to a fight that was captured on camera and posted on the Odense Zoo Facebook page, shown above.

King Penguins With Chick
A two-month-old king penguin chick sits next to its father in its enclosure at Edinburgh Zoo in Edinburgh, Scotland. One parent will often stay with the chick until they're old enough to be on their own. DAVID MOIR/REUTERS

But the zookeepers decided to give the gay couple an egg of its own from a penguin mother who was not able to take care of her egg. The zoo does not currently know if the egg is fertilized, but if it is, the penguins should be able to successful incubate it.

“There have been many instances in zoos and aquariums where that strategy has been used, so if an egg or a chick has been abandoned by its parents,” deNapoli explained. “When there happens to be a same-sex couple that appears that they want to nurture a chick, then they have given eggs to same-sex couples who have successfully raised them.”