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A zookeeper at a Denmark zoo recently reported that a couple of gay penguins (pictured above) “kidnapped” a straight couple’s chick in their enclosure while its mom was bathing and its dad was ignoring it. The chick’s mom eventually found her chick and started squabbling with the gay penguins, but after the zookeeper returned the chick to its parents, the Denmark zoo gave the gay penguins their own egg to care for.
Sandie Hedegård Munck, an animal tender at Denmark’s Odense Zoo, saw the male Emperor Penguin couple snatch the chick and protectively stand with it at their feet. While the chick’s father didn’t seem to notice, its mother began searching. When she found her baby with the gay penguins, she began cawing aggressively at them.
Animal tenders had to intervene and give the chick back to its mom as the gay penguins tried to snatch it back as their own. But the gay penguins were later given their own unhatched penguin egg to care for. The egg was taken from a single mother who hadn’t been able to care for it on her own.
But while the story is heartwarming, biologists say it’s a mistake to label animals as “gay” or “straight” at all, warning that these labels often exist to humanize animal behavior or push a particular worldview.
It’s hard to know an animal’s full sexual history or whether they have a “sexual identity” like humans at all. Thus, most biologists avoid assigning a sexual orientation to animals, preferring instead to say that they merely “exhibit same-sex behavior for a set time.”