Same-sex penguin couple welcome hatchling

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The recently hatched chick is being raised by a male same-sex penguin couple in New York (Pic: Rosamond Gifford Zoo)

Congratulations are in order for a same-sex penguin couple who’ve become proud parents after caring for a foster egg.

Elmer and Lima, a male Humboldt penguin couple at the Rosamond Gifford Zoo in New York, hatched the feathery bundle of joy on 1 January, although the news was only announced in the past week.

The same-sex foster couple were given the fertilised egg of a breeding couple that has a history of inadvertently breaking their eggs.

Elmer and Lima were chosen to have their fostering capabilities assessed after they paired up for the breeding season, built a nest and defended their territory. They were first tested with a dummy egg.

“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,” said Zoo Director Ted Fox. “That’s how we evaluate who will be good foster parents — and Elmer and Lima were exemplary in every aspect of egg care.”

They were then presented with a real fertilised egg and took turns to incubate the egg until it hatched and have been brooding (warming) and feeding the chick since.

“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,” said Fox.

There have been numerous cases around the world of same-sex penguin couples successfully hatching and caring for foster chicks.

Fox believes that same-sex penguin pairs show that the concept of “family” is not species-specific and that in many cases, non-traditional families do a wonderful job of child-rearing.

“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,” he added.

Humboldt penguins, which are native to the coast of Chile and Peru, are listed as a Vulnerable species. Since starting its Humboldt penguin colony in 2005, the Rosamond Gifford Zoo has hatched more than 55 chicks.

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