At the Berlin Zoo in Germany, there’s a famous pair of gay penguins named Skipper and Ping. Why are these penguins famous? Because they were almost daddies!
There are very few species in the animal kingdom that mate for life. Out of over 5,000 identified species, only about five percent stick with their chosen partner til death do them part.
Penguins are one of those species in the five percent. When penguins reach a mature age, the males engage in courtship rituals to win the heart of the penguin of their dreams. They often bring their chosen partner pretty rocks they’ve collected, because apparently even penguins like bling.
Once they’ve won the affections of their intended partner, the penguins will stay together for the rest of their lives.
Penguins are even more unique in that some choose to mate for life with same-sex partners. This happens both in the wild and in captivity.
Adopting an Egg
Skipper and Ping are both ten-year-old emperor penguins who arrived at the Berlin Zoo in April. When they got there, zookeepers immediately noticed their bond and correctly guessed that the two were mates.
In the past several months, the zookeepers noticed that Skipper and Ping were showing signs of wanting to be parents. The couple had collected rocks and fish and were taking turns sitting on them in an attempt to “hatch” them.
Skipper and Ping’s several attempts to hatch inanimate objects led the zookeepers to decide that they should be given an egg to adopt. They took an egg from the nest of another penguin couple. Before you have a fit about kidnapping, you should know that this couple had damaged their eggs previously because they don’t get along all that well. So the zookeepers thought the egg had a better chance with Skipper and Ping.
There was no way to know if the egg had been fertilized or not. The zookeepers hoped that either Skipper or Ping would attempt to fertilize the egg, but they never confirmed that the attempt was made. So all they could do was wait and hope that the egg would give Skipper and Ping the baby they wanted so much.
The Devoted Daddies
The penguin pair were given their adopted egg in July. Since then, they’ve both been devoted parents.
The instinct to care for offspring is strong in both male and female penguins. In opposite-sex pairs, both male and female penguins take turns sitting on the egg for incubation. And when the chick is born, both mother and father take active roles in feeding, cleaning, and nurturing the chick.
So, it’s no surprise that both Ping and Skipper eagerly stepped up to perform their parental duties. The couple has been diligently taking turns sitting on the egg. Zoo spokesman Maximilian Jäger went as far as to say that Skipper and Ping were “acting as exemplary parents…”
Everyone at the Berlin Zoo and around the world eagerly waited to see whether this devoted couple who’d wanted a chick for so long would get their wish.
Sad News for Skipper and Ping
In Early September, the egg finally broke open. But to everyone’s disappointment, no chick emerged. It turned out the egg had not been fertilized. So Ping and Skipper didn’t get their chick this time around.
The penguins were noticeably upset, which is completely understandable.
Jäger, the zoo’s spokesperson, said that when the opportunity arises for another egg adoption, they plan to let Skipper and Ping try again. “Even though Skipper and Ping did not have any luck with this year’s breed, they will surely get the opportunity to become parents again in the future.”
Hopefully, they have better luck next time!
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