The planned separation of a "gay" penguin couple at the Toronto Zoo is causing a commotion both among zoologists and the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender media.
As the Toronto Star is reporting, Buddy and Pedro have not only been inseparable, but have also shown signs of traditional mating behaviors. Bred in captivity, 10-year-old Pedro and Buddy, 20, came to Toronto from zoos in the U.S. as part of a popular African penguin exhibit which opened at the zoo in May, and formed a connection as members of a "bachelor flock," according to the Star. "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.
But sadly, even though the pair frequently engage in "courtship and mating behaviors that females and males would do," according to one keeper, zoo officials say they intend to separate the birds from each other and pair them with females for breeding, as African penguins are an endangered species.
Same-sex companionship among penguins is actually quite common. In 2009, Z and Vielpunkt, two male Humboldt penguins at Germany's Bremerhaven Zoo, became the proud parents of a healthy penguin chick hatched from an egg fertilized by another penguin couple. Another such pair at China's Polarland Zoo was even given a wedding celebration, as The Sun is reporting.
And, as LiveScience reports, homosexuality has been documented in more than 450 species of vertebrates, "signaling that sexual preference is biologically determined in animals."
UPDATE: Bill Rapley, executive director for conservation, education and wildlife at the Toronto Zoo, now tells the National Post that Pedro and Buddy’s separation will only last as long as it takes for them to inseminate their respective female partners. Once breeding season is up, Pedro and Buddy will be able to reunite.
Watch a video about Pedro and Buddy, as well as some other intriguing cases of "gay" animals, below: