Gay penguins in New York become dads

Zoo director says ‘people of all ages and backgrounds’ can ‘relate to animals’ following same-sex fostering

Gino Spocchia
Monday 31 January 2022 12:33 GMT
The penguin chick that hatched on New Year’s Day after being cared for by two males
The penguin chick that hatched on New Year’s Day after being cared for by two males (Rosamond Gifford Zoo)

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Louise Thomas

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A pair of male Humboldt penguins have become parents to a hatchling at a New York zoo.

The penguin that hatched on New Year’s Day was a first for Rosamond Gifford Zoo in Syracuse, although same-sex penguin couples have successfully incubated eggs elsewhere.

Zookeepers said the same-sex male pair, Elmer and Lima, were chosen to be foster parents for an egg laid by Poquita, a female penguin at the zoo who was given a dummy egg.

The pair were chosen to incubate an egg after they began building a nest together ahead of the current breeding season at the zoo, which is about 75 miles west of Rochester, New York, this past fall.

Rosamond Gifford Zoo director Ted Fox said not all penguin couples are good at incubating eggs, but “Elmer and Lima were exemplary in every aspect of egg care”.

The two penguins took turns incubating the egg until the Humboldt penguin chick hatched, said Mr Fox, and “it continues to be brooded and cared for by both Elmer and Lima, who are doing a great job”.

“And once they have experience doing this and continue to do it well, they will be considered to foster future eggs,” the director added in an announcement on Friday.

In recent years, penguins have been incubated by same-sex foster parents at zoos in Valencia, Spain; Berlin, Germany and in San Francisco, California.

Mr Fox said “Elmer and Lima’s success at fostering is one more story that our zoo can share to help people of all ages and backgrounds relate to animals,” and that for many animals “family” is not specific or “traditional”.

Humboldt penguins are listed as vulnerable, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, and are native to the Pacific coast of South America.

Rosamond has seen 55 Humboldt penguin chicks hatched since the animals were introduced to the zoo in 2005.

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