Gay penguins officially become first-time dads to adorable foster chick at New York zoo

two Humboldt penguins swim in the water

A gay Humboldt penguin couple has become foster parents to a new hatchling, starting their adorable family.

Zookeepers at the Rosamond Gifford Zoo in Syracuse, New York, said the same-sex male pair, Elmer and Lima, were chosen to be foster parents for an egg laid by a female penguin.

Elmer and Lima formed a pair bond for the current breeding season, built a nest together and even defended their territory. So the zoo decided to test out their fostering capabilities.

According to a news release, the Rosamond Gifford Zoo has relied on foster couples to incubate eggs in the past, but Elmer and Lima are the zoo’s first same-sex foster couple.

Ted Fox, zoo director, said not all penguin couples are good at incubating eggs as it’s a skill that “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,” Fox said. “That’s how we evaluate who will be good foster parents – and Elmer and Lima were exemplary in every aspect of egg care.”

On 23 December, the zoo decided to give Elmer and Lima a chance to incubate an egg laid by Poquita, a female penguin who was later given a dummy egg.

According to the zoo, Elmer and Lima were exemplary parents and took turns incubating the egg until it hatched on New Year’s Day. The pair have been brooding – aka warming – and feeding their chick since its birth.

Fox said the gay penguin couple is “doing a great job” raising the little chick. If they continue to do well, Elmer and Lima will be “considered to foster future eggs”, Fox added.

So there’s a possibility that the gay penguin family could be welcoming new additions in the future.

Fox shared that he hoped the same-sex penguin pair could help “people of all ages and backgrounds” can relate to animals.

“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 said.

In recent years, penguins have been incubated by same-sex foster parents at zoos across the world.

Sphen and Magin, the gay penguin “power couple” at Sea Life Sydney, celebrated their third anniversary earlier this year. The pair welcomed their first chick back in 2018 and hatched their second egg in 2020.

In 2019, a lesbian penguin couple at Sea Life London aquarium hatched a little chick during Pride month. The female Gentoo penguins were given the egg by staff after another penguin mother couldn’t handle her two other babies.