21 November 2011

Caught in a lad romance

African penguins at Toronto Zoo.
Photo credit: William Pitcher
Some rights reserved
CANADA - Toronto Zoo's answer to Central Park Zoo's Roy and Silo may cause just as much controversy as the famous New York penguin couple.

Male African penguins Buddy and Pedro are part of Toronto Zoo's 12-strong penguin exhibit that opened in May this year. They caused a media stir when the zoo announced this month that they were showing signs of a "pair bonding" relationship - that is, courtship and mating behaviour like a male-female pair - but would have to be separated for breeding purposes.

Toronto Zoo is part of the Species Survival Plan for the endangered African penguin, so Buddy and Pedro are supposed to mate with females - not each other - and make penguin chicks.

Pedro is 10 years old; Buddy is 20 and has previously mated with a female. Being two of the zoo's six male penguins, both are considered important breeding material.

The zoo may have thought its plan to separate the birds sounded quite sensible - but the public outcry was immediate. Online petitions and surveys all had the same message: Don't split up Buddy and Pedro!

In response, the zoo's curator of invertebrates and birds, Tom Mason, told PinkNews.co.uk that although it would be "necessary" to separate the penguin pair if they showed no signs of mating with females, it will be "only temporary".

“There will be a limited time of separation but it will not be permanent. No matter what happens all the penguins will be re-united by spring," Mr Mason said.

“If Pedro and Buddy wish to get back together, they will be welcome to do so.”

Meanwhile in the Southern Hemisphere an Aussie same-sex penguin couple is out, proud and allowed to live together.

Little penguins Brendan and Andy at Pet Porpoise Pool in Coffs Harbour, New South Wales have been sharing the same burrow for the past 12 months.

Marketing managing Angela Van den Bosch told The Coffs Coast Advocate, "The team is very supportive of their wish to live together as they are genuinely caring of each other."

"Brendan has taken on the responsibility of building the nest and renovating their hutch to make it a home. While Andy is the provider, and in the past fathered chicks with a few of the females, it is apparent he has now decided that he prefers the company of Brendan."

Perhaps this time next year, Buddy and Pedro may have the same love story to tell.

Toronto Zoo says it will reunite "gay" penguins in the spring by Kathleen Jercich, 16 November 2011, Care2.com
Canada's gay penguins to be "reunited by spring" by Stephen Gray, 11 November 2011, PinkNews.co.uk
Same-sex penguin pair fascinates zookeepers by Donovan Vincent, 4 November 2011, Toronto Star
The perfect pair of penguins, 28 October 2011, The Coffs Coast Advocate

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