Same-sex penguin couples form at London aquarium

12 May 2021, 19:01 | Updated: 12 May 2021, 19:28

Same-sex gentoo penguin couples have formed at Sea Life London Aquarium
Same-sex Gentoo penguin couples have formed at Sea Life London Aquarium. Picture: PA
Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

Two female same-sex penguin couples have formed at a London aquarium ahead of its reopening to the public on Monday.

The Gentoo penguins at Sea Life London Aquarium are going through their annual mating season in time for the return of visitors next week.

Lucky guests will likely be able to watch on as all the couples among the colony performing their amazing courtship rituals, such as the male penguins gifting a pebble to a potential mate.

But when the centre reopens on 17 May as nationwide coronavirus restrictions are eased, penguin-lovers will be able to meet two all-female couples - Marmalade and Chickpea, and Marama and Rocky.

The aquarium said same-sex pairings are relatively common and that they will sometimes adopt eggs that have been abandoned by other couples.

Read more: Penguin returned home after being spotted 'plodding' up village street

General manager Catherine Pritchard said: "Without a doubt, our Gentoo penguins are one of our most loved creatures and we're so pleased that we're able to reopen our doors in time for guests to be able to witness their amazing courtship rituals.

"Gentoo penguins are the ultimate romantics, and their dating techniques are truly unique - so much so that as humans, we could certainly learn a thing or two from their passion and commitment to finding a mate.

"As well as our male-female penguin couples, this breeding season we also have two female same-sex couples who are also going through their nesting rituals."

The aquarium said same-sex penguin pairings are relatively common
The aquarium said same-sex penguin pairings are relatively common. Picture: PA

When one penguin gifts a pebble to another, it is usually then used to build a nest for any eggs that are laid before the next generation of Gentoos are born.

The birds at London Sea Life are closely monitored during mating season, with staff keeping an eye on their nesting progress and regularly weighing them.

Ms Pritchard said: "Our expert care team are monitoring the penguins' progress and we're hoping that we're lucky enough to add a new chick to the colony when we welcome guests back."