Thought-to-be gay African penguins, Buddy and Pedro, have been split up as part of a “species survival program” at Toronto Zoo last week.
The pair showed all the signs of being in a relationship, including making ‘braying’ mating sounds, defending their territory, preening each other, constantly standing alone together and most notably, pairing off together every night.
“It’s a complicated issue, but they seem to be in a loving relationship of some sort,’’ said Joe Torzsok, chair of the Toronto Zoo board.
Yet, the pair have “top-notch” genes and were split up to help try to inject new life into their dwindling population.
Buddy has seemingly moved on to female African penguin, Farai, with Pedro expecting to take Thandiwey as a mate in coming weeks.
The two recently got into a fight as they sat across from one another in their respective nests. It was mostly loud bawling, but there could have been serious injuries if not for a mesh between the nests.
The aggression has stunned Toronto zookeepers and people all around the world who believed Buddy and Pedro were in love, despite having viable mates in their enclosure prior to being split up.
Scientists say that same-sex penguin relationships often dissipate when a potential mate is thrown into the mix, yet this doesn’t explain why even when there were mates for Buddy and Pedro to pair up with, they chose to stick together. It wasn’t until they were broken up that the aggression between the two started.
When asked if the birds were likely to partner-up again, Tom Mason, curator of birds and invertebrates at the Toronto Zoo, said “I don’t believe that will happen… Once separated, that’s it.”
Among the responses to the male penguin couple’s split is this cute song, titled The Ballad of Buddy and Pedro.
“When we’re apart for the sake of our kind and we’re doing what’s right, I’ll be thinking of you, when only my heart takes flight,” sings Sunny Widerman: