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Gay penguin couple are 'best parents' zookeepers have seen

Published May 16, 2014 1:53 pm
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Utah's reluctance to allow married same-sex couples to adopt children doesn't bother Kermit and Jumbs, a gay couple who lives more than an ocean away.

To start, they're penguins.

The same-sex couple at Wingham Wildlife Park in the United Kingdom recently adopted an abandoned baby chick, who they have nurtured so devotedly that wildlife park staff have declared them the "best parents" in all penguindom.

The chick was conceived by a pair of opposite-sex penguins named Isobel and Hurricane. Turns out, Hurricane is somewhat of a deadbeat dad.

Jackie Biskin, whose husband Tony owns the wildlife park, told the Kent News that "Hurricane is a very inconsiderate partner who is happy to get Isobel pregnant, however at that point Hurricane seems to think that his job is done."

In the wild, penguin parents must divvy up parenting duties to keep the chick warm and, after it's hatched, fed at all times. Because Hurricane refused to help incubate the chick, Isobel could not carry on alone and was forced to abandon her chick to go get food.

Left alone, the chick would have died.

Enter world-famous gay Humboldt penguins Kermit and Jumbs.

The two male penguins had been caring for a fake egg given to them by park staff to stop the couple from fighting — they were frustrated, officials said, because they were unable to have a chick of their own.

That fake egg was swapped out with Isobel's real egg and on April 12, the same-sex couple became a family of three.

"These two have so far proven to be two of the best penguin parents we have had yet," Tony Biskin said.

Surveillance camera footage has shown the couple sharing parenting duties — taking turns feeding and nurturing the hatchling — and loving on their new chick.

Wildlife officials said the two will likely remain their go-to surrogate parents in the future.

"Being brought up by individuals of the same species always has a better outcome for animals being reared," Tony Biskin said. "While we will intervene and hand-rear animals if necessary, it is something we prefer to avoid. … It is certainly still early days for this chick, so far things are looking good."

Kermit and Jumbs have been a couple for two years — first seen pairing up in 2012, leaving two female penguins without a life partner.

The two, though adorable, are hardly unique.

There have been reports around the world of same-sex pairings among penguins and other animals, some of whom have reared chicks.

Unlike Utah same-sex marriages, it seems male pairings are more common among penguins, though there have been several recent reports from zookeepers and wildlife officials who have also noticed lesbian penguins in their midst.

— Marissa Lang

Twitter: @marissa_jae




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