- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 21, 2005

A quirky new children’s book tells the true story of Roy and Silo, two male chinstrap penguins in New York who partnered up, adopted an egg and had a baby.

And no, it’s not called “Feather Has Two Daddies.”

In “And Tango Makes Three,” authors Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell write a captivating story of the unconventional couple, though skeptics may be left wondering if the authors have embellished their tale of same-sex lovebirds in their zeal to promote human sexual tolerance.

Zookeeper Rob Gramzay, who is featured in the book, noticed the pair doing normal penguin couple things: bowing to each other, singing to each other and swimming together.

He wasn’t too surprised about the penguins’ male companionship, Mr. Gramzay said in an interview. Same-sex coupling isn’t uncommon in the animal kingdom — the New York Aquarium had a male penguin couple, and the Central Park Zoo has had previous same-sex couples.

The difference, Mr. Gramzay said, was the instinct Roy and Silo demonstrated for raising a family.

As the book — released last month — tells it, the duo watched as male-female penguin couples built nests together and produced eggs and sat on them until they hatched. Roy and Silo built a nest of stones for themselves and used one of the bigger rocks as an “egg” to incubate.

They sat on the egg and waited, taking turns with egg-sitting, just as male-female penguin couples do, but, of course, nothing happened.

Mr. Gramzay gave the pair a fertilized egg, and months later, out popped Tango, a baby chick so named because, as the book puts it, “it takes two to make a Tango.”

The catch is, Mr. Gramzay volunteers, that the authors took “artistic license” in saying that the penguins fell in love — a very human emotion. In addition, the zookeeper actually gave the couple an egg-sized rock to practice the incubation process, whereas the book portrays the penguins as finding the rock themselves.

Regardless of whether it has shaded the strict zoological truth with a little artificial mood lighting, the book has been a hit among those wishing to promote diversity with children at a young age and has already sold out at Central Park Zoo.

In fact, the book has become so popular that visitors are requesting to see the duo and their daughter, Tango, who is now 5 years old, Mr. Gramzay reports.

Although Roy, Silo and Tango all thrive in a constant 34 degrees with the zoo’s 50-some other chinstrap penguins, it just may prove to be the summer of the penguin after all.

Jessica Leshnoff

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