SAY WHAT? - Yeah, wearisome, venomous, crackpot Nazis are still everywhere. Following the lead of a craven GOP unfathomably declaring a riot "legitimate political discourse" to its logical toxic conclusion and never mind the death, trauma and overthrowing-ness of it, the sickest of the sick are shrieking that needle-wielding white cultists are raping children with COVID vaccines, degenerate Jews are molesting and sacrificing "goyim" children, and liberals are "genociding us" by bringing in refugees from "shithole countries" while teaching them to hate white people, as in, "Every single thing Jake Tapper says, he might as well just say, 'Go kill whitey.'" To fight back, a rabid, Stop-the-Steal, masks-are-Satanic "pastor" in Tennessee (oh, Tennessee) who believes Mitch McConnell is controlled by “Illuminati hand signals” - though, ok, he may have something there - cited a Biblical mandate to call for and then preside over a book-burning of devil-worshipping Harry Potter and Twilight books as "a deliverance from demons." "We're exposing the Kingdom of Darkness," he proclaimed. "It's time for people to be delivered."
Can we hear an Amen? Because at the end of a fascist-infested week we're more than ready to be delivered from it, we're going with the sweet tale of a Syracuse, New York zoo celebrating its first chick to hatch from a foster same-sex pair of Humboldt penguins - in this case, Elmer and Lima, two males who alternately, diligently sat on the egg during incubation and are now raising the wee hatchling as "exemplary parents." The birth is a home-town affair for the Rosamond Gifford Zoo, whose Humboldt penguin colony has 28 birds: Elmer was born there in 2016, Lima in 2019; they paired up this fall - love is love - for the breeding season, and the new chick hatched Jan. 1. Male, still unnamed. The happy family all belong to a Humboldt population, native to the coasts of Peru and Chile, that's been deemed vulnerable from historic overharvesting for fertilizer of guano - dried bird poop, where they build their nests; they're also threatened by climate change, overfishing and entanglement in nets. In 2005, the Zoo joined a national zoo association's cooperative Species Survival Plan (SSP) to help sustain certain species, including Humboldts; to date, they've hatched over 55 chicks.
While a few other zoos worldwide have been home to same-sex-adopted chicks, Elmer and Lima's little is a first for Rosamond Gifford, which has had at least two breeding pairs of penguins inadvertently break their fertilized eggs. Because such accidents are fairly common, zoo keepers sometimes swap a dummy egg for the real one, which they offer to another, hopefully more adept pair of penguins to incubate in order to give the eggs a better chance at life. Last year, the zoo's first foster penguin chick, Opal, was the biological offspring of parents Juan and Rosalita - alas, an egg-breaking pair - but raised by hetero foster parents Luis and Calypso, who incubated the egg and cared for her after she hatched. Boasted the zoo's bird manager, “It was their first time fostering, and they really knocked it out of the park.” This December, when zoo officials determined an egg laid by female penguin Poquita, with the help of her mate Vente, was viable, they decided to swap it out and give Elmer and Lima a chance to be first-time dads. Fun fact: Elmer got his name because he hatched from an accidentally damaged egg repaired with Elmer’s glue.
Despite Elmer's inauspicious beginnings - and like many first-time parents gay or straight - they rose to the task. Zoo director Ted Fox said some penguins, faced with an egg, will sit on the nest but neglect the egg on the side; others will "fight for who is going to sit on it." “That’s how we evaluate who will be good foster parents," he said. "Elmer and Lima were exemplary in every aspect of egg care.” At its first health check at five days old, the chick weighed 226 grams (8 ounces). Today, he says, it's "doing really well, growing very, very well. It continues to be brooded and cared for by both Elmer and Lima, who are doing a great job. They’re doing exactly what two penguins should do when they’re taking care of a baby" - one heads out to feed or swim, the other stays close by, and they switch out their roles. So, really, all good, thanks in part to enlightened leadership. "The welfare and well-being of every animal (is) important to us, and (we) encourage each animal to make its own choices," says Fox. "The penguins are free to choose who they want to spend time with, and in their case they chose each other." A basic, human, benevolent lesson, no hate in sight. Fascists, take note.
(Abby Zimet has written CD's Further column since 2008. A longtime, award-winning journalist, involved in women's, labor, anti-war, social justice and refugee rights issues. Email: [email protected])