It appears the Toronto Zoo’s famously same-sex pair of penguins have not only gone their separate ways, but are even pursuing female partners.
Buddy and Pedro, a pair of male African penguins whose same-sex bond made worldwide headlines this fall, were separated in November so they could mate with females.
Prior to their separation, Buddy and Pedro swam together and even shared a nest.
But Tom Mason, Toronto Zoo’s curator of birds and invertebrates, said Sunday that Buddy has taken to breeding with a female while Pedro is pursuing a female mate but facing a case of unrequited love.
"Pedro is ready to go but his prospective mate is quite shy," said Mason. "She's not quite ready to go, but they're beginners."
Prior to their forced breakup, the Toronto penguins’ pairing filled news reporters and provided material for late-night TV hosts.
Jimmy Kimmel made light of the story in one of his monologues, calling it "Brokeback Iceberg" while claiming the lovebirds were spotted at a Lady Gaga concert.
Pedro and Buddy were relocated to Toronto last year from Toledo, Ohio.
Buddy, who is 21, had a female partner for 10 years and produced some offspring but his partner died. Pedro, 10, has yet to produce offspring.
Penguin same-sex 'social bond' not uncommon
Mason added that it’s quite common for penguins to form a non-sexual, same-sex "social bond," especially in the absence of females.
"When the opposite pairs do show up, the same sex bond tends to break down," he said.
The Toronto zoo’s breeding program is aimed at saving a species on the brink of extinction.
At one time numbering more than one million worldwide, Mason said current estimates put the African penguin population at about 50,000 in the wild and only 800 in captivity.
There are currently no plans to release captive birds in the wild.
"These birds do better in captivity right now than they do in the wild," said Mason.