BY TOBY PORTER
Anyone who denies same-gender couples the right to adopt has some explaining to do.
A longstanding pair of loving girl penguins have taken a baby chick under their, er, wings – and are caring for it like a mum and dad.
Proud parents Marama and Rocky three weeks ago welcomed the new addition to their family, born weighing 82g and just 11 cm tall.
It is the second year the Sea Life London Aquarium in Waterloo has successfully bred penguin chicks as part of its dedicated breeding and conservation programme.
Visitors can see the new arrival in their home at Penguin Point inside Polar Adventure part of the attraction.
The female Gentoo penguin couple, who have been together for five years, adopted the egg after demonstrating to the London Aquarium’s expert team that they would make “fantastic parents,” say its scientists.
The egg, which was one of two born to its birth mother, was moved to relieve her of the pressure of raising two chicks.
Both Marama and Rocky have taken quickly to their new roles as parents, and adore their tiny bundle of fluff.
The adoptive parents built the biggest nest out of the colony, and each perform nest shifts giving the other the chance to swim and feed.
Marama is the older of the pair and is naturally being more protective of the chick, whilst Rocky, who has always been free spirited and inquisitive and has a more butch name, is keen to teach it everything it needs to know about life as a penguin.
Graham McGrath, General Manager at SEA LIFE London, said: “Marama and Rocky have taken to becoming parents like ducks to water; or should I say penguins.
Caring for a newborn is tough for anyone, from the sleepless nights to the constant feeding, yet this wonderful pair of penguin parents are completely unflappable and seem to be taking it all in their stride.
“We can’t wait to see the chick grow and develop under Marama and Rocky’s careful and nurturing guidance over the coming weeks and months. And we’re incredibly proud to see the continued success of our Gentoo breeding programme here at the SEA LIFE London aquarium.”
Same sex couples are apparently not uncommon in the animal kingdom, the experts say – particularly amongst penguins found within larger colonies.
“Marama and Rocky have an incredibly strong bond and exhibit pairing behaviour all year round such as bowing to each other,” say its scientists.
The Gentoo penguin chick is the second to be born at Sea Life London this year, as part of its conservation programme.
As a result of climate change affecting Gentoo penguins feeding and nesting habits in their natural environment, Gentoo penguins have near-threatened status in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species so the birds at Sea Life London play a critical role in marine conservation.
Gentoo penguins are just one of the amazing creatures that can be seen at Sea Life
London this summer, others include dwarf crocodiles, nurse sharks and sea turtles, and visitors can catch a glimpse of the chick at the attraction’s Penguin Point inside Polar Adventure.