Zookeepers at Israel’s Ramat Gan Zoological Center have been surprised to learn that two of their Black Footed Penguins, also known as African or Jackass Penguins, are a same-sex couple after assuming they were in a heterosexual pairing.
Jackass Penguins mate for life and penguins Suki and Chupchikoni had begun collecting nesting material together when a veterinary student researching avian malaria took blood samples from the birds.
The samples were sent to a lab in the penguin’s native home of South Africa which also sexed the birds and when the results came back it was discovered that Suki and Chupchikoni were both girls.
Penguins are impossible to sex just by appearance as both males and females have internal genitalia and until then staff at the center had assumed Chupchikoni was a boy because she was larger than Suki.
Chupchikoni is Hebrew slang meaning ‘thingie’ – a euphemism for ‘penis.’
‘We had no doubt about Suki [being female], as she is quite small,’ Safari Avian Department head Tamuz Setti, head of the Safari Avian Department told Haaretz – adding that if Suki had wanted to be with a boy there were plenty of single ones around in the enclosure.
‘There are a few young available males in the exhibit. We are certain that they made a choice to be together.’