The Rosamond Gifford Zoo in Syracuse, N.Y., is the latest zoo to lean on a pair of same-sex foster parent penguins to incubate eggs.
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A newborn Humboldt penguin chick at Rosamond Gifford Zoo
Credit: Courtesy of Rosamond Gifford Zoo

Zoos around the world are helping preserve endangered penguins, and they're doing it with help from some very important foster parents.

The Rosamond Gifford Zoo in Syracuse, N.Y., is the latest zoo to lean on a pair of same-sex foster parent penguins to incubate eggs. The zoo recently welcomed its first chick hatched by power parents Elmer and Lima, who are both males.

The baby chick made its appearance on Jan. 1, weighing in at eight ounces during a primary health check at five days old, zoo officials said.

"It continues to be brooded and cared for by both Elmer and Lima, who are doing a great job," Rosamond Gifford Zoo director, Ted Fox said in a statement shared with Travel + Leisure.

The statement also noted that penguins fostering other penguins' eggs is not uncommon as some breeding penguins have a tendency to accidentally break their own eggs.

Elmer and Lima, Rosamond's first same-sex foster couple, had to prove their parenting abilities on a "dummy egg" before getting their shot as foster parents.

"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 explained.

Elmer and Lima, "were exemplary in every aspect of egg care," he added. The two paired up in the fall, built a nest, and defended their territory, signaling to the zoo they might be ready for penguin parenthood.

The pair are among 28 Humboldt penguins who call the zoo home. Elmer hatched at Rosamond zoo in 2016, while Lima followed in 2019. And while they are Rosamond's first same-sex foster couple, several other zoos have found equal success with same-sex penguin foster parents.

In Valencia, Spain, an aquarium saw Electra and Viola, a pair of female penguins, became foster parents last year. "The formation of same-sex pairs is common in more than 450 species of animals and occurs both in zoos and in nature," the aquarium said at the time.

The Rosamond Gifford Zoo is open every day except for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's Day. The zoo requires masks worn inside regardless of a visitor's vaccination status.

Meena Thiruvengadam loves wandering new streets and discovering the world's stories. Find her on Facebook, Instagram, or at the airport, and subscribe to her newsletter.