Penguin Pals

These two male penguins are often seen with each other in the daytime and leave together every night. But the Penguin Post has learned that now the bromance between Buddy and Pedro has got keepers at Toronto Zoo in a flap about whether or not the two African penguins are gay. Keepers have noticed the duo are showing signs of mating behaviour, including braying and defending their territory. But the relationship is not destined to last as the zoo intends to break them up. As African penguins are endangered, the zoo must follow its species survival plan and pair them with females for breeding. Buddy, 20, and Pedro, 10, are part of the African penguin exhibit that opened at the zoo in May. They were bred in captivity in Toledo, Ohio, where they formed a connection as members of a bachelor flock. Their relationship, referred to as ‘pair bonding’ by the zoo, continued after they arrived in Canada. During the day, the zoo’s 12 penguins – six male and six female – swim and play together in their enclosure, which includes a pool with underwater windows for the public to view. But every night Buddy and Pedro pair off together. ‘They do courtship and mating behaviours that females and males would do,’ one keeper told the Toronto Star. As a mating call, the penguins make a braying sound, like a donkey. They defend their territory, preen each other and stand alone together. The keepers, who are aware of the bond, were surprised by the relationship. ‘This is all new for us,’ another keeper told the Star. Joe Torzsok, chair of the Toronto zoo board, added: ‘It’s a complicated issue, but they seem to be in a loving relationship of some sort.’ Buddy and Pedro are not the first gay penguin couple to grace the world’s zoos. As part of an experiment in 2009, two male chinstrap penguins at New York’s Central Park Zoo, incubated an egg together and raised the chick, named Tango, after she hatched. A children’s book, entitled ‘And Tango Makes Three’, about the chick and her parents, Roy and Silo, became a bestseller. Zoos in Japan, Germany and Sea World Orlando have also noted ‘pair bonding’ among penguins. Buddy and Pedro’s relationship follows research from the University of California, Berkeley in April, which found birds can form gay relationships for life. Scientists found that when raised in same-sex groups, more than half the birds paired up together.  When females were then brought into the male group, five out of eight pairs of males ignored them and stuck with their male partner. Lead author Dr Julie Elie said: ‘Relationships in animals can be more complicated than just a male and a female who meet and reproduce. ‘My observations led me to this surprising result: same-sex individuals would also interact like male-female pairs.’

Penguin Pals Buddy and Pedro



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