Published: 11:00, 14 May 2014
Male penguins Jumbs and Kermit had plenty of females to choose from at Wingham Wildlife Park.
But they only had eyes for each other and now the gay couple have become foster parents.
The extraordinary pairing has intrigued their keepers, who watched them form the unlikely friendship and even build a nest together.
So when another hetrosexual couple of penguins abandoned their own egg, they gave it to Jumbs and Kermit who nurtured it and have now hatched a thriving young chick.
And keepers say they are now proving to be the 14-strong group’s best penguin parents.
Head of birds and mammals at the park Becky Johnson explained: “It was a shame to see the hetrosexual pair leave their egg, largely because the male deserted his share of the duties.”
Shortly before, Jumbs and Kermit had a tiff and were fighting. So keepers gave them a dummy egg for their nest to see if that calmed them down, which it did.
So when the unattended real egg was not being incubated, they swapped it for the fake one in Jumbs and Kermit’s nest and a few weeks later a chick was hatched on April 12.
Park owner Tony Binskin said: “At first we were apprehensive and prepared to go in and remove the baby or assist the new foster parents by supplementing their feed.
“But all we have had to do was to take the chick out once a day to weigh it to ensure that it is growing as it should.”
Following a month in the care of Jumbs and Kermit, the chick, which has yet to be sexed or named, gained 500g in weight, and is growing as it should.
“These two have so far proven to be the best penguin parents we have had" - Park owner Tony Binskin
Tony said: “These two have so far proven to be the best penguin parents we have had. But we have had to bring in two new males to keep the balance of the group.
“We are still very much starting our breeding efforts with this species, and this is only our second year, but having such good surrogate parents available should we need them is a huge bonus for us.
“Being brought up by individuals of the same species always has a better outcome for animals being reared. While we will intervene and hand rear animals if necessary, it is something we prefer to avoid.”
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