SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WSYR) — The Rosamond Gifford Zoo welcomed its first chick from the Humboldt penguin program on January 1. The chick was hatched and is being raised by a pair of male penguins, Elmer and Lima—a first for Rosamond Gifford Zoo.
Elmer and Lima formed a pair bond for the current breeding season, according to the zoo. But how did they get an egg?
Rosamond Gifford Zoo says that they frequently use foster parents to incubate eggs, as they have at least two pairs of breeding penguins with a history of accidentally breaking their fertilized eggs. The zoo says keepers will swap a “dummy egg” for the real thing and give the real one to a more successful and careful pair. Elmer, one of the foster parents, knows this first hand—his egg was accidentally damaged by his parents, and the team repaired it using Elmer’s glue!
Last year, the zoo’s first penguin chick, Opal, was born the same way. Juan and Rosalita, an egg-breaking couple, are her biological parents, but the egg was given to foster parents Luis and Calypso. Luis and Calypso incubated the egg and cared for her after she hatched, much like Elmer and Lima have for their chick, laid by Poquita and Vente.
“It was their first time fostering and they really knocked it out of the park,” said April Zimpel, the zoo’s bird manager. Ted Fox, the zoo director, shares that not all penguin pairs are necessarily good at incubating an egg. “It takes practice,” Fox stated.
Elmer and Lima are doing a great job, Fox says. “At our first health check when the chick was five days old, it weighed 226 grams,” Fox said. “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.”
“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.
Several other institutions have had success with same-sex penguin pairs fostering eggs: a female pair of Gentoo penguins in Spain, a male pair of King penguins in Berlin, and a male pair of Magellanic penguins in San Francisco.