Elmer and Lima: Gay penguins at NY zoo turn foster dads with egg from another couple

Same-sex Humboldt penguins Elmer and Lima became foster parents to a newborn hatchling in Rosamund Gifford zoo, New York


                            Elmer and Lima: Gay penguins at NY zoo turn foster dads with egg from another couple
The baby penguin was born healthy on New Year's Day, and weighed a healthy eight ounces at its first health check at just five days old (Representational pic/Rosamund Giffor Zoo/Facebook)
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A same-sex penguin couple has become foster parents to a newborn hatchling in Rosamund Gifford zoo, Syracuse, New York. 

Humboldt penguins Elmer and Lima first got together this past mating season, and built a nest together in the fall, which they have both defended from incoming predators. They are extremely devoted to each other and their nest. Their devotion to each other led officials at the Rosamond Gifford Zoo to test how the two would be as parents, using a dummy egg, before letting them take care of a fertilized egg of their own.

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The baby penguin was born healthy on New Year's Day, and weighed a healthy eight ounces at its first health check at just five days old, zoo officials announced on 28 January via Facebook. The hatchling has not yet been named.


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Before giving the couple an egg of their own, zoo officials tested Elmer and Lima would be as parents by first putting a dummy egg in their nest.

Prospective penguin parents' behavior is different when it comes to their egg, some either keep the egg next to them, rather than sit on it to keep it warm, or fight with each other for a chance to keep the dummy egg warm. But not Elmer and Lima, they took turns in incubating the egg until it hatched.

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The unamed hatcling weighed 8 ounces at his first-check up (Credit- Facebook,Rosamund Gifford Zoo)

"Elmer and Lima were exemplary in every aspect of egg care," Zoo Director Ted Fox said. 

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After the couple passed the test, zoo officials replace the dummy egg with a real one that came from a pair of breeding penguins that have a history of inadvertently breaking their fertilized egg. The unnamed baby penguin is now reportedly in good condition, as it continues to be looked over lovingly by the same-sex couple.

"It continues to be brooded and cared for by both Elmer and Lima, who are doing a great job," Fox said in a zoo statement. "And once they have experience doing this and continue to do it well, they will be considered to foster future eggs." 

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He said Elmer and Lima's success shows that the idea of 'family' is not species-specific and that non-traditional families can successfully raise children. 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.'

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

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Humboldt penguins are listed as vulnerable by the International Union of Conservation of Nature.
(Photo credit- Facebook, Rosamund Gifford zoo)

The Rosamond Gifford Zoo joined the Species Survival Plan for Humboldt penguins in 2005 with the opening of its Penguin Coast exhibit. It started its own colony with 18 birds from other zoos and aquariums in the Association of Zoos & Aquariums, and started producing chicks the very next year.

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The zoo has since hatched more than 55 penguin chicks, many of which have gone on to participate in the SSP at other AZA institutions