Pedro, 10 and Buddy, 20, the gay penguin couple of Toronto Zoo are to be separated so they could be paired with female penguins. Zookeepers find this seemingly cruel and anti-gay act necessary in order for their species to survive. Apparently, the population of African penguins is dwindling down. Two decades ago, there is an estimated 225,000 African penguins out in the wild. Today, their number is down to an alarming 60,000, which is dropping really fast at that. Biologists suspect that the decrease in the African penguins' population is caused by climate change. The changing ocean currents drive food sources further and further away from the African coast, which happened to be the breeding grounds of the African penguins. The International Union for Conservation of Nature even went as far as to estimating that there is a huge possibility that African penguins out in the wild could be totally wiped out before the end of the century. This the reason why zookeepers at the Toronto Zoo are keeping an eye on the population of the African penguins before the world lose them completely.
Earlier this year, Pedro and Buddy were brought to the Toronto Zoo to "pair-bond" with eligible female penguins. But instead of bonding with the girls, Pedro and Buddy bonded with each other. They are seen snuggling, calling out to each other and displaying penguin courtship behavior. Penguins are known to choose one penguin to mate for a lifetime, so is it safe to say Pedro and Buddy won't be involved in any gay threesome?
With the African penguins on the verge of extinction, the Toronto Zoo said the two male penguins' genes are important and they have no choice but to isolate the pair and get them interested with the female penguins who follow them around. Tom Mason, curator of birds and invertebrates at the Toronto Zoo, said, "If [Pedro and Buddy] weren’t genetically important, then we’d let them do their thing."
Apparently, Pedro and Buddy are not singled out. At Chicago's Population Management Center, penguins are paired, separated and moved to different zoos so genetic diversity can be maximized.
The story of the gay penguin couple made headlines around the world. There was an outpour of sympathy for the couple's plight. If only penguins were easy to breed, zookeepers could simply extract Pedro and Buddy's sperm to artificially inseminate an eligible female. But as it turns out, they are not. One penguin parent is not enough for the process of incubating and hatching eggs.
But is it really necessary for Pedro and Buddy to split up? As a couple, aren't they capable of incubating and rearing an egg? In 2004, Roy and Silo, a pair of male chinstrap penguins at New York's Central Park Zoo did just that. They incubated and reared an egg zookeepers gave them. But Roy and Silo eventually split up when Silo left Roy for a female penguin. In 2009, gay penguins, Harry and Pepper of San Francisco Zoo, broke up after Harry paired up with a female penguins.
But are there really gay penguins? In 2010, a study of penguin homosexuality by France's Centre for Functional and Evolutionary Ecology concluded that homosexuality is prevalent among penguins but rarely last longer than a few years.
According to the Toronto Zoo, Pedro and Buddy will be back together after they have inseminated their female partners. Hopefully, the separation would not force them or confuse them to change their orientation. Like humans, gay penguins have only got one life to live. Let us let them be themselves.