Elmer and Lima, two adult male Humboldt penguins, formed a pair bond during breeding season last fall, and now, they are raising a chick together.
It’s a first for the Rosamond Gifford Zoo in Syracuse, N.Y., where officials are celebrating the hatching of an egg cared for by a pair of male penguins.
The chick hatched on Jan. 1 after the same-sex couple became foster parents to incubate the the egg.
“It was their first time fostering and they really knocked it out of the park,” the zoo’s bird manager, April Zimpel, said in a statement Friday.
The New Year’s chick is really making waves.
After Elmer and Lima built a nest and defended their territory, the facility’s penguin team decided to test their fostering capabilities with a viable egg laid by Poquita and her mate, Vente.
Zoo Director Ted Fox said not all penguin pairs are good at incubating eggs, but Elmer and Lima were “exemplary in every aspect of egg care.”
“The pair did a great job of taking turns incubating the egg until it hatched and have been brooding (warming) and feeding the chick since, Fox said.
Elmer hatched at the zoo in 2016, and was so-named because his egg was accidentally damaged by his parents and the animal care team repaired it using Elmer’s glue. Lima hatched at the zoo in 2019.
The zoo’s penguin colony has 28 birds, but Elmer and Lima have truly distinguished themselves.
For example, the zoo has crowned Lima the facility’s “biggest flirt.”
And Elmer excels at rock collecting — a key penguin skill.
He is the zoo’s “best rock collector.”
But for now, their main job is dad and dad.
And so far, they’re knocking parenting out of the penguin pool.
“At our first health check when the chick was five days old, it weighed 226 grams (8 ounces),” Fox explained. “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.”
Other zoos around the world have also had same-sex penguin pairs and ones that have hatched and raised chicks.
The folks at Rosamond also consider it a good lesson in diversity.
“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,” Fox said.