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It's (Foster) Father's Day

Sunday, June 16, 2019 9:00:00 AM Categories: Animal News

Featuring Proud Pop, Pez!

June 16, 2019

By Erica Rymer, Events and Marketing Specialist


Whether your father is a workaholic or laid back; tall or short; funny or grumpy; biological, step- or adoptive, today is a day to celebrate him! Dads are some of the most amazing people (and animals) in the world! To celebrate Father's Day, we would like to share the story of one of our proud pops at the Akron Zoo!

Pez (pronounced “Pace”) is one of our male Humboldt penguins. He and his mate, Gabriella, have proven to be phenomenal parents during their time at the Akron Zoo. Together they have hatched several chicks including Rico, the lovable male penguin chick born in the summer of 2018. However, Pez’s most recent parental role has been unique because he is not actually the biological parent -- he is a foster father!

In early April this year, the Akron Zoo was contacted by keepers from the Columbus Zoo about some surprise eggs. The parent penguins, Dr. Oswald Cobblepot and Big Bertha, were new arrivals to Columbus and were not expected to lay any eggs until next breeding season. However, these two apparently put no stock in expectations, because they laid not one but TWO eggs! Vicky Croisant, Akron Zoo penguin keeper and Humboldt penguin Species Survival Plan (SSP) Officer was contacted and asked if the Akron Zoo would be willing to foster one or both of these eggs.

“We didn't have any pairs on eggs yet, but Pez and Gabriella are proven parents so I went to our management team to get their opinion on potentially fostering the egg,” said Croisant.  “They agreed it would be a good opportunity, so mid-April I gave Pez and Gabs artificial wooden eggs to see if they would start incubating them. Instinct kicked in and they started caring for the artificial eggs.”

Since this pair has only raised one chick at a time, the Akron Zoo felt it would be best to only foster one egg. The second was sent to the Milwaukee County Zoo. The foster egg arrived in Akron on May 2. Keepers replaced the wooden eggs with the real egg, and Pez and Gabriella continued to care for the egg until it hatched on May 11.

This egg was also important for another reason: it’s genes. The Columbus egg was ranked a two on the breeding matrix. This means that on a scale of one to six (one being most essential to the current population), the genetic makeup of this chick is very desirable to add genetic diversity to the current Humboldt penguin population in human care. For reference, the genetic offspring of Pez and Gabriella would be ranked a four. 

“Not only is the chick a genetically valuable bird to the population,” said Croisant, “but it helped to guarantee a chick for us this season because our pairs didn't lay any, for whatever reason.”

Pez and Gabriella now share parental responsibility for the chick, who has been named Alberto. They take turns sitting on Alberto to keep him warm, feeding him, and keeping an eye on him so he doesn’t wander too far from the burrow. Pez is very fond of his foster chick and is proving once again that he is a great zoo dad!

So no matter what kind of dad you have, whether foster, step-, biological, adoptive or even penguin, wish him a Happy Father’s Day. And, if you have some free time today, stop by the Akron Zoo. Dads and grandpas receive free admission (today only), and other ticket sales support our great zoo dads like Pez!