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Sunday, November 6, 2011

A right pair of love birds: Are Buddy and Pedro the African penguins more than just friends?

By Lydia Warren

They are often seen touching each other and leave together every night.

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.

Inseparable: African male penguins Pedro and Buddy share a hug in their enclosure at Toronto Zoo. They have displayed examples of mating behaviour

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.

Good mates: The penguins, who both moved to Toronto from Toledo, Ohio in May, preen each other. They also defend their territory and perform mating calls

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.'

Flying solo: Keepers plan on separating the duo, who swim with the zoo's 10 other penguins in their enclosure (pictured) each day, to mate with females

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.

More than feathered friends: Research from the University of California, Berkeley has found that birds can form same-sex relationships for life

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.'

Other species of animals exhibit homosexual tendencies. Giraffes, dolphins and monkeys are known to form same-sex bonds.

source: dailymail


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