Gay penguins in Berlin are set to start a family
Two male penguins at Berlin Zoo have been caring for an abandoned egg since July, and zoo staff are hopeful that they’ll be able to successfully hatch and raise a chick.
Skipper and Ping are 10-year-old King Penguins. They were moved to Berlin Zoo from Hamburg Zoo in April of this year, and have been an inseparable couple ever since.
According to the zoo’s staff, Skipper and Ping have been giving off paternal signals for a while, trying to hatch stones in their quest to start a family.
When an egg was abandoned by the zoo’s female King Penguin, staff gave Skipper and Ping the opportunity to put their parenting skills to the test.
“We just had to put it on the feet of one of the guys, and he already knew what to do…” said zookeeper Norbert Zahmel. “They’re behaving like model parents, taking turns to keep the egg warm by nestling it on their feet under a flap of belly skin.”
As well as keeping the egg at the right temperature, Skipper and Ping must also protect the egg from jealous rivals.
The Berlin Zoo is home to a colony of six King Penguins, but only have one female. The zoo hasn’t had a successful King Penguin hatching since 2002. Zoo staff have been unable to confirm if the egg being incubated by Skipper and Ping was successfully fertilised.
It’s quite common for penguins to form same-sex couples, both in the wild and in captivity. Roy and Silo of New York City’s Central Park Zoo are among the most famous gay penguins – the Chinstrap Penguins successfully hatched an egg in 1999, their chick was called Tango.
If things go to plan for Skipper and Ping, they could be welcoming a new chick into the world in early September.