A beautiful, touching incident took place at the Artis zoo in Amsterdam, where a gay vulture couple hatched a baby chick in an attempt to start a family.
The pair of male griffon vultures found an abandoned egg which they welcomed in their aviary. They looked after it, hatched it and, finally, gave birth to a baby chick they now love and care about. Same-sex couples in the animal kingdom are quite common but two male birds to successfully hatch an egg is super rare.
“It is a beautiful story. They proved they can,” Job van Tol, zoo-keeper at the Artis zoo told TIME.
The male vultures, now dads, had been a really strong couple for many years. In January, they started mating and building nests together but neither could produce any eggs because only female vultures can do that.
When workers at the zoo found the abandoned egg in their aviary unit, they thought of it as a great opportunity to form the family they so desperately wanted. The egg was produced by a female griffon vulture that had not mated with a partner.
“We put our heads together and we thought this was the ultimate chance for our male couple to have a fertile egg. They have a perfect opportunity to raise a chick,” van Tol says. “It’s risky and a bit nerve-wracking because you don’t have any promises that they would understand how to raise a chick.”
When the zookeepers put the egg in the two male vultures’ nest, they were surprised to watch them trying to keep it warm. In May, when van Tol climbed up to their nest to see what was going on with the egg, he was amazed by what he saw.
“I saw this little moving baby chick,” he says. “It was a special moment. This we just couldn’t believe.”
The little chick is now 20 days old and it grows with the help of its caring parents who are very protective.
The two fathers even split their duties and take turns caring for their little. They defend the nest, forage for food and look after their baby. Of course, since this is the animal world we are talking about, the future is not guaranteed, but griffon vultures stay in couples for years.
“After one year they don’t say, ‘Bye, this doesn’t work out for me.’ They have a real connection with each other,” van Tol says.
Happy upcoming father’s day, everybody!