‘Gay’ penguins separated at Toronto Zoo may not reunite if young are producedOnline Only, Section 4A, Gaywatch Monday, November 21st, 2011
Over the last month, animal activists have mounted concern over the separation of Buddy and Pedro, two male partner penguins at the Toronto Zoo who have been estranged for breeding. The two ‘love birds’ have had quite a past; Buddy, 21, used to have a female partner for “quite a few years” before meeting Pedro, 10, at the Toronto Zoo. Later, after the heterosexual birds were separated, Buddy and Pedro began exhibiting courtship and mating rituals only ordinarily seen between male and female.
Zookeepers have split the two to pair them each with females to help populate the endangered species. When breeding season is over, however, the zookeepers will eventually return the African penguins to the same enclosure. As Tom Mason, Toronto Zoo curator of birds explains, “if Buddy and Pedro want to be together … they will be back together.”
Although Pedro and Buddy will eventually be reunited, it’s a toss-up as to whether or not the two will want to be together again. P. Dee Boersma, a biology professor at the University of Washington, explains that after successful mating and production of an egg, it’s rare for a penguin to get “divorced” from its mate. If a “divorce” does happen, it’s generally on account of failing to raise their young.
“They are much more likely to divorce after a nest failure than if they are successful with their mate,” Boersma explains. “Those birds will tend to be faithful.”
Another factor in whether or not penguins can become life partners is whether or not they “get along.”
“The way penguins work is they do get paired for a long time. Basically, the only other penguin they care about is their mate, so it’s important for them to find somebody who’s compatible,” said Kevin McGowan of the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology in a statement to ABC News.
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