IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Gay penguins raise newly hatched chick at New York zoo

Elmer and Lima, male residents of the Rosamond Gifford Zoo in Syracuse, had been incubating an egg laid by one of the zoo’s female penguins. 
A new penguin chick is being raised by a pair of gay male penguins at the Rosamond Gifford Zoo.
A new penguin chick is being raised by a pair of gay male penguins at the Rosamond Gifford Zoo.Rosamond Gifford Zoo

A gay penguin couple are now proud parents after the egg they had been caring for hatched early last month.

Elmer and Lima, two male penguins, are the first same-sex penguin parents at the Rosamond Gifford Zoo in Syracuse, New York, which is home to an internationally renowned Humboldt penguin program. 

Although the zoo has at least two breeding pairs of penguins, it has relied on foster parents to incubate eggs because of a history of breeding pairs inadvertently breaking their fertilized eggs. In an attempt to save the chicks, keepers may swap a dummy egg for a real one and give it to a more successful pair to incubate.

Zoo Director Ted Fox said not all penguin pairs are good at incubating eggs. “It takes practice,” he said in a statement.

The zoo decided to swap a dummy egg with a viable embryo laid by female penguin Poquita and her mate, Vente, in late December. Elmer and Lima were given a chance to incubate the egg. After a few weeks, the egg successfully hatched, and the pair have been brooding (warming) and feeding the chick since.

“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.”

The South American Humboldt penguins are vulnerable to a declining population because of habitat loss and climate change, according to the Rosamond Gifford Zoo. In 2005, the zoo joined the Species Survival Plan for Humboldt penguins, opening its Penguin Coast exhibit. The exhibit started with a colony of 18 penguins from other aquariums in the Association of Zoos & Aquariums and have since hatched more than 55 chicks. 

“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.

Follow NBC Out on TwitterFacebook & Instagram