This article originally appeared on VICE Australia.
Here’s a story that’ll warm the cockles of your heart: A same-sex penguin couple who fell in love at Sydney Aquarium have been given a foster egg to rear as their own. The penguins’ names are Magic and Sphen, and they’ve been in a monogamous relationship ever since Sphen “proposed” to Magic by offering him a heart-shaped stone, according to the Sea Life aquarium. Now they’re inseparable, constantly waddling around together and going for swims in the Macquarie Island exhibit. And they desperately want to raise a chick.
Magic and Sphen, both Gentoo penguins, first started falling for one another in the lead-up to this year’s breeding season. Aquarium staff started to suspect something was going on between the two when they noticed that they were building nests out of ice pebbles on a daily basis, ABC reports.
"We'd go over there and Magic and Sphen would be bowing to each other… [which] is a Gentoo way of saying they love each other,” said Tish Hannah, supervisor of the penguin department.
When staff started putting out real pebbles for the breeding season, the penguins built a nest together. When staff gave them a dummy egg so that they weren’t excluded and could practice their parenting skills, the penguins “displayed [such] great care” for it that they were given a real egg from another couple who had two.
Tish explained that Magic and Sphen’s same-sex status should have virtually no effect on their ability to adequately raise a chick together. Even in male-female relationships, Gentoos typically split feeding and incubating responsibilities evenly.
"We're not going to need to step in just because they're males," she said. "We might step in if it turns out that they're not good parents because of who they are as individuals, but for all the signs we're seeing at the moment they're going to be amazing."
It’s thought that if Magic and Sphen’s parenting experience goes smoothly this time around then it’ll only make them stronger as a couple, and improve the chances of them doing it all over again next season.
"If they have a successful breeding season and raise a chick, next year they're very likely to get back together again because they know that worked for them," said Tish.
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