Hallmark may have cornered the Valentine’s Day card market, but penguins lead the pack (Ok, maybe alongside pandas) as the most photogenic V-Day zoo animals. And San Francisco’s California Academy of Sciences is doing its part to support that certainly biased, but not altogether spurious claim.
According to the Associated Press, the center’s biologists give out red felt hearts to their 14 African penguins as part of an annual holiday of love tradition. The Antarctic birds (typically the males of the species) waddle over and grab the gifts, then shuffle back to their nests inside the rocky enclosure.
Some tear the hearts up and use the pieces to decorate their nests, while others hunker down and sleep on them.
African penguins are endangered in the wild, and the Academy’s tradition is meant to help promote its captive breeding program. As in the human world, an attractive nest is supposedly the way to a female penguin’s heart.
“It’s very important for you to get a mate to have a nice-looking nest,” Vicki McCloskey of the California Academy of Sciences told the AP regarding the heartfelt “felt heart” mating ritual.
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Penguins are typically monogamous, though love triangles have been reported in the past. Hopefully all these potential daters match up smoothly this year or else the Academy may have a Real Penguins of San Francisco-type situation on its flippers, er, hands.