Telegraph - A couple of gay penguins are attempting to steal eggs from straight birds in an effort to become "fathers", it has been reported. The two penguins have started placing stones at the feet of parents before waddling away with their eggs, in a bid to hide their theft.
But the deception has been noticed by other penguins at the zoo, who have ostracised the gay couple from their group. Now keepers have decided to segregate the pair of three-year-old male birds to avoid disrupting the rest of the community during the hatching season.
A keeper at Polar Land in Harbin, north east China explained that the gay couple had the natural urge to become fathers, despite their sexuality.
"One of the responsibilities of being a male adult is looking after the eggs. Despite this being a biological impossibility for this couple, the natural desire is still there," a keeper told the Austrian Times newspaper.
"It's not discrimination. We have to fence them separately, otherwise the whole group will be disturbed during hatching time," he added.
There are numerous examples of homosexuality in the animal kingdom, but gay penguins have captured the public's attention more than any other species.
A German zoo provoked outrage from gay lobby groups after attempting to mate a group of gay male penguins with Swedish female birds who were flown in especially to seduce them. But the project was abandoned after the males refused to be "turned", showing no interest in their would-be mates.
In 2002 a couple of penguins at a New York zoo who had been together for eight years were "outed" when keepers noticed that they were both males.
A pair of gay penguins thrown out of their zoo colony for repeatedly stealing eggs have been given some of their own to look after following a protest by animal rights groups.
Last month the birds were segregated after they were caught placing stones at the feet of parents before waddling away with their eggs.
But angry visitors to Polar Land in Harbin, northern China, complained it wasn't fair to stop the couple from becoming surrogate fathers and urged zoo bosses to give them a chance.
In response, zookeepers gave the pair two eggs laid by an inexperienced first-time mother.
'We decided to give them two eggs from another couple whose hatching ability had been poor and they've turned out to be the best parents in the whole zoo,' said one of the keepers.
'It's very encouraging and if this works out well we will try to arrange for them to become real parents themselves with artificial insemination.'
Wildlife experts at the park explain that despite being gay the three-year-old male birds are still driven by an urge to be fathers.
'One of the responsibilities of being a male adult is looking after the eggs. Despite the fact that they can't have eggs naturally, it does not take away their biological drive to be a parent,' said one.
One campaigner who did not want to be named welcomed the move and said: 'It wasn't fair to stop them becoming parents and keep them apart from all the other birds just because of the way nature has made them.'