June 27, 2019
'Gay' Penguins At London Zoo Get Their Habitat Decorated With Pro-LGBTQ Signs For Pride Month

The London Zoo has decorated its penguin habitat with pro-LGBTQ signs in honor of Pride Month, BBC News reports. It's fitting since the zoo's penguin population includes at least three pairs of same-sex couples.

June is Pride Month, which is when the LGBTQ community celebrates itself and its history. To that end, the London Zoo, which is home to a pair of "gay" penguins who made the national news a few years ago, has put up signs in the birds' habitat. Those signs say, "Some Penguins Are Gay, Get Over It."

The wording on the sign is based on the Stonewall Campaign's motto of "Some People Are Gay, Get Over It." And there are at least six "gay" penguins living in the habitat.

"Gay" Penguins?

Six birds in the zoo appear to be in same-sex relationships. The two most famous of them are a pair of males named Ronnie and Reggie, who have been inseparable since 2014. In 2015, the pair famously adopted a chick after its own parents abandoned an egg. Ronnie and Reggie cared for it and even parented the chick after it hatched. The chick, named Kyton, has since fledged the nest.

Ronnie and Reggie are joined by two other couples in same-sex relationships -- Nadja and Zimmer and Dev and Martin. They share their habitat with a yearling, Rainbow, who was born during Pride Month in 2018, as well as several dozen other penguins.

Same-Sex Relationships In The Animal Kingdom

You may have noticed that the word "gay" has been used in quotes in this article when describing the relationship between the various penguins at the London Zoo. That's because anthropomorphizing -- that is, assigning human characteristics to nonhuman animals -- is a dangerous game to play.

Some species of penguins do mate for life, or at the very least, stay monogamous during mating season. That makes it convenient to ascribe to their pairing the term "relationship," like we would with a human couple. And for a pairing of two birds of the same sex, it's tempting to conclude that they're in a "gay relationship."

What's more, same-sex mating behavior and pairing behavior has been observed in the entire spectrum of the animal kingdom, from insects to primates, like macaques.

However, as biologist Paul Vasey explained to BBC News in 2015, animals engage in same-sex pairings and mating behavior for a variety of reasons, from simply trial-and-error, to instilling jealousy in other potential mating partners of the opposite sex in the community, to any number of other reasons.

In other words, to conclude that a pair of same-sex animals engaging in mating, pairing, and even parenting behavior is actually in a loving relationship, such as with humans, is to miss the point entirely.

Back In London...

For reasons not fully clear, London's Pride celebrations will take place largely in July, after Pride Month. And the London Zoo will be getting in on that, including hosting presentations on same-sex behaviors in the animal kingdom, as well as sending its LGBTQ employees to march in the city's Pride Parade.