Dashik and Yehuda, two male griffon vultures, first made headlines when they raised surrogate chicks together at the Jerusalem Biblical Zoo back in 1999. Now, Suki and Chupchikoni, two female Jackass penguins, are waving a new rainbow flag at the Zoological Center Ramat Gan (Safari) just outside of Tel Aviv.
Safari keepers say it was pretty obvious that Suki was a female because of her size. As soon as she and Chupchikoni coupled up and started collecting nesting materials together, the zoo staff wrongly assumed that Suki’s black-footed penguin companion was a male.
Penguins pair for life and there was no mistaking Suki and Chupchikoni’s attraction.
“There is no way of telling a male penguin from a female just by looking at them,” says Safari spokeswoman Sagit Horowitz. “But usually the keepers can guess the gender by size and behavior.”
It was an Israeli veterinary student’s research on diagnosing avian malaria that outed Suki and Chupchikoni. Blood samples taken from the South African penguins showed that Chupchikoni was also a female.
“We had no doubt about Suki, as she is quite small,” said Tamuz Setti, head of the Safari Avian Department.
The Safari supports the new couple and even promoted their status with a press release and photos.
“This is our first lesbian animal couple at the Safari,” said Setti. “And because there are a few young available males in the colony, we are certain that this is a choice they made to be together and not a coupling by default.”