Zoo keepers in Toronto are planning to separate a pair of inseparable, and — according to some zoo staffers — “gay” male penguins so that they can be paired with females for breeding.
Buddy, 20, and Pedro, 10, are two African penguins who were both bred in captivity and arrived at the Toronto Zoo from the U.S. in May.
The pair arrived from Toledo, Ohio, where they first formed their connection as members of a bachelor flock.
Their relationship — referred to as “pair bonding” in zoo speak because scientists don’t officially use the words gay or straight when it comes to sexual orientation in animals — has continued since arriving in Toronto.
“It’s a complicated issue, but they seem to be in a loving relationship of some sort,” says Joe Torzsok, chair of the Toronto zoo board.
According to one zoo keeper, “They do courtship and mating behaviors that females and males would do, and they pair off together every night.”
Those behaviors include making a “braying’’ sound, almost like a donkey, as a mating call. They defend their territory, preen each other, and are constantly standing alone together. In fact when the Star visited the exhibit this week Buddy emerged from the water, followed a few moments later by Pedro. The two huddled together for quite some time.
Their relationship is somewhat of a delicate issue for the keepers to discuss with outsiders. But they’ve all noticed the pair’s bond, and talk about it among themselves.
It’s not unusual for some species of animals to exhibit homosexual tendencies, reported the Star. Similar cases have been documented in New York‘s Central Park zoo and another in Germany where two male penguins did the same thing.
Buddy and Pedro’s relationship follows research from the University of California, Berkeley released in August, which found that birds can form gay relationships for life.
Researchers discovered that when the birds were raised in same-sex groups, over half of the males formed same-sex couples. Even when females were introduced to the group, five out of the eight male couples ignored them and continued their relationships.