Roy and Silo

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Roy and Silo
Manchot 01.jpg
Roy and Silo are Chinstrap Penguins, similar to those pictured.
Species Chinstrap Penguin
Sex Both male
Born 1987
Known for Same sex animal couple
Offspring Tango

Roy and Silo (born 1987) are Chinstrap Penguins who were a same sex male pair in New York City's Central Park Zoo. They were noted by staff at the zoo in 1998 to be performing mating rituals, although no actual sexual acts were witnessed, and in 1999 attempted to hatch a rock as if it were an egg. This inspired zoo keepers to give them an egg from another pair of penguins who could not hatch it, resulting in the couple raising a chick which was named Tango.

Tango herself formed a same sex relationship with another female penguin. Roy and Silo drifted apart after several years, and in 2005 Silo paired with a female penguin called Scrappy. Their story has been made into a controversial children's book and featured in a play. Their relationship has been used as arguments both by American liberals and the Christian right. The practice of allowing same sex penguin couples to adopt eggs has been repeated in other zoos around the world.

History[edit]

Roy and Silo met at the zoo and they began their relationship in 1998, and although staff never saw them in a sexual act, they were observed conducting other mating rituals typical of their breed including entwining their necks and mating calls.[1] In 1999 the pair were observed trying to hatch a rock as if it were an egg. They also attempted to steal eggs from other penguin couples.[1] When the zoo staff realized that Roy and Silo were both male, they tested them further by replacing the rock with a dummy egg made of stone and plaster. As it was "incubated real well" it occurred to the zoo keepers to give them the second egg of a mixed-sex penguin couple,[2] a couple which previously had been unable to successfully hatch two eggs at a time.[3] Roy and Silo incubated the egg for 34 days and spent two and a half months raising the healthy young chick, a female named "Tango".[4] When she reached breeding age, Tango paired with another female penguin called Tanuzi.[5][6] As of 2005, the two had paired for two mating seasons.[1]

Shortly after their story broke in the press, Roy and Silo began to separate after a more aggressive pair of penguins forced them out of their nest.[1] In 2005, Silo found another partner, a female called Scrappy, who had been brought from SeaWorld Orlando in 2002.[1] Roy joined a group of unattached male penguins.[7] As of 2012, Roy and Silo are both thought to still be alive at around 25 years old,[8] with the Central Park Zoo's website stating that penguins in captivity can live up to 30 years.[9]

Impact[edit]

Roy and Silo were not the first same-sex male penguin couple to be known in New York, as pairing of two penguins named Wendell and Cass at New York Aquarium was reported in 2002.[10] However, attention was first brought to Roy and Silo after The New York Times published a story about them in May 2004. The article described them as "gay penguins", and listed two other pairs of penguins in New York that showed similar behaviour.[3] It was brought back into the spotlight by the release of the film March of the Penguins in 2005, as American conservatives and Christian fundamentalists pushed that the film demonstrated Christian values, and so American liberals pushed back by highlighting Roy and Silo's story.[7]

Roy and Silo's story became the basis for two children's books, And Tango Makes Three, by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell and illustrated by Henry Cole, and the German language Two Daddies for Tango by Edith Schrieber-Wicke and Carola Holland.[11] And Tango Makes Three itself became controversial, being listed as one of the top ten most banned books in public libraries and schools across America for five years in a row,[12] but became a bestseller.[13] Roy and Silo have also been featured as characters in theatrical works, including the play Birds of a Feather, a character-driven piece about both gay and straight relationships, which made its début in Fairfax, Virginia in July 2011.[14] And Then Came Tango, a play/ballet for young audiences by Emily Freeman, was premiered during the March 2011 Cohen New Works Festival at The University of Texas at Austin.[15] The Austin Chronicle recognized the production with an Honorable Mention in its "Top 10 Theatrical Wonders of 2011." [16]

Certain groups jumped on the breakup of the pair as a victory for their ideals. Warren Throckmorton said through Christian right organisation Focus on the Family that "For those who have pointed to Roy and Silo as models for us all, these developments must be disappointing. Some gay activists might actually be angry."[1] A spokesperson for the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force responded by explaining that the actions of two penguins is not a good way of answering the question of whether sexual orientation is a choice or a birthright.[1] A 2010 study by France's Centre for Functional and Evolutionary Ecology found that homosexual pairings in penguins is widespread, but such pairings don't usually last more than a few years.[13]

The publicity on the subject caused public outcry among gay and lesbian communities when stories were published about zoo keepers forcibly splitting up same sex penguin couples.[17] Dwindling numbers of some species of penguins contributed to those decisions.[13] The act of allowing a same sex pair of penguins to adopt either an egg or a chick in the same manner as Roy and Silo has been repeated more than once. In 2009 German zoo keepers gave an egg to a male same sex pair of Humboldt Penguins named Z and Vielpunkt, who hatched the egg and raised the chick.[18] In 2011, Chinese zoo keepers gave a chick to a male same sex pair of penguins to look after, once it became apparent that the chick's natural parents could not look after two chicks.[19] At the Central Park Zoo itself there have been further same sex couples, with both an all-male couple (named Squawk and Milo) and an all-female couple (named Georgey and Mickey) conducting courtship behaviour.[20] In 2014, zoo keepers at Wingham Wildlife Park, in Kent, UK gave an egg that had been abandoned by its mother after the father refused to help incubate it to a Humboldt Penguin male same sex pair called Jumbs and Kermit. The park owner stated in a BBC interview "These two have so far proven to be two of the best penguin parents we have had yet." [21]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g Miller, Jonathan (24 September 2005). "New Love Breaks Up a 6-Year Relationship at the Zoo". The New York Times. Retrieved 22 April 2012. 
  2. ^ Shenitz, Bruce (June 2005). "Penguin Papas". Out: 72. Retrieved 22 April 2012. 
  3. ^ a b Smith, Dinitia (7 February 2004). "Love That Dare Not Squeak Its Name". New York Times. Retrieved 7 March 2012. 
  4. ^ Smith, Dinitia (7 February 2004). "Birds of a feather demonstrate animal homosexuality" (Subscription required). Charleston Daily Mail. Retrieved 22 April 2012. 
  5. ^ Driscoll, Emily V. (10 July 2008). "Bisexual Species: Unorthodox Sex in the Animal Kingdom". Scientific American. Retrieved 22 April 2012. 
  6. ^ Bone, James (27 September 2005). "Gay icon causes a flap by picking up a female". Times Online. Retrieved 31 March 2009. 
  7. ^ a b Laurence, Charles (25 October 2005). "Sex, Politics and Two Gay Penguins" (Subscription required). Daily Mail. Retrieved 22 April 2012. 
  8. ^ "Answer Man: 'Tango' family no longer makes three". Post Bulletin. 21 March 2012. Retrieved 22 April 2012. 
  9. ^ "Penguins". Central Park.com. Retrieved 22 April 2012. 
  10. ^ Bull, Chris (2 April 2002). "Birds of a feather: meet Wendell and Cass, the gay male penguin couple at the New York Aquarium" (Subscription required). The Advocate. Retrieved 22 April 2012. 
  11. ^ Fisher, Jill A. (2011). Gender and the Science of Difference. New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press. p. 145. ISBN 9780813550466. 
  12. ^ Siemaszko, Corky (13 April 2011). "Ban 'And Tango Makes Three'?: Book about gay penguins tops 'most challenged' list - again". New York Daily News. Retrieved 22 April 2012. 
  13. ^ a b c Hopper, Tristan (7 November 2011). "Gay penguin separation means survival of the species: zoo keepers". National Post. Retrieved 22 April 2012. 
  14. ^ Wren, Celia (22 July 2011). "'Feather' flies to high comedy" (Subscription required). The Washington Post. Retrieved 22 April 2012. 
  15. ^ "Fesitval Guide" (PDF). The University Co-op Presents the Cohen New Works Festival. The University of Texas Department of Theatre and Dance. p. 4. Retrieved 25 June 2012. 
  16. ^ Faires, Robert (6 January 2012). "Top 10 Theatrical Wonders of 2011". The Austin Chronicle. Retrieved 25 June 2012. 
  17. ^ "'Gay penguins' ruffle feathers" (Subscription required). The Irish Times. 12 February 2005. Retrieved 22 April 2012. 
  18. ^ Kupferman, Steve (16 December 2011). "Newsmaker: Love birds". National Post. Retrieved 22 April 2012. 
  19. ^ Pielak, Alex (5 December 2011). "'Gay' penguins given baby chick to parent in China". Metro. Retrieved 22 April 2012. 
  20. ^ "Your morning adorable: Penguins in love". LA Times. 18 April 2009. Retrieved 22 April 2012. 
  21. ^ "Gay penguins in Kent zoo are 'the best parents'". BBC News. 15 May 2011. Retrieved 15 May 2014.