Gay penguin dads Elmer and Lima hatch their first foster chick


gay penguins elmer and lima foster dads foster chick syracuse new york zoo Rosamund Gifford Zoo
Images: Humboldt penguins stock photo by Tim Vickers, Rosamund Gifford Zoo/Supplied

A pair of male Humboldt penguins at a New York zoo have hatched and become foster dads to their first chick.

Staff at the Rosamund Gifford Zoo in Syracuse say Elmer and Lima are their first gay penguin foster dads.

The two animals join numerous other same-sex penguin pairs around the world caring for newborns.

Elmer and Lima paired up ahead of breeding season last year, building a nest together and defended their territory.

So staff decided to test the pair’s fostering capabilities.

Zoo Director Ted Fox said not all penguin pairs are good at incubating eggs, and it “takes practice.”

“Some pairs, when given a dummy egg, will sit on the nest but leave the egg to the side and not incubate it correctly, or they’ll fight for who is going to sit on it when,” he said.

“[The dummy eggs are] how we evaluate who will be good foster parents.

“Elmer and Lima were exemplary in every aspect of egg care.”

A few days before Christmas, the team found an egg laid by couple Poquita and Vente had a viable embryo inside.

However, the couple had a history of inadvertently breaking their fertilised eggs.

So the zoo staff decided to swap it for the dummy egg and give Elmer and Lima a chance to incubate the egg.

The pair did a great job, Fox said, taking turns incubating the egg until it hatched on January 1.

Ever since, the pair have been warming and feeding the chick.

“At our first health check when the chick was five days old, it weighed 226 grams (8 ounces),” Fox said.

“It continues to be brooded (warmed) and cared for by both Elmer and Lima, who are doing a great job.

Humboldt penguins are a vulnerable species

Humboldt penguins are native to the Humboldt current off the coast of Chile and Peru in South America.

They are listed as a vulnerable species, with the wild population declining due to habitat loss and climate change.

Since 2005, the Rosamond Gifford Zoo has hatched more than 55 penguin chicks.

Zoo director Ted Fox said now that Elmer and Lima have experience parenting, they’ll be considered in the fostering of future eggs.

Australia’s gay penguin couple Sphen and Magic

In Australia, Sydney’s own gay penguin couple Sphen and Magic are foster dads to two chicks.

The same-sex penguin pair became world famous when they paired up in 2018.

And they’re still inseparable, Sea Life Sydney says, celebrating their third anniversary in November.

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