They say that penguins mate for life. A male and a female penguins pair off and spend their lives together raising children. Awww, how sweet eh? It’s a tale as old as time (or at least since penguins were invented) and I’m sure it’ll continue forever. But a penguin couple in the Toronto Zoo are raising some eyebrows with their coupling habits. Buddy and Pedro are a same-sex couple.
“They do courtship and mating behaviours that females and males would do,’’ one keeper said.
These include the practice of “braying”, a sound like that of donkeys, as mating calls. They defend each others territory, they preen each other and stand alone together for hours on end. These two little bird brains are inseparable. And it’s not the first rime homosexual tendencies have been noticed in penguins. In fact, a children’s book has been written about this very subject, “And Tango Makes Three”, and it’s based on the story of Roy and Silo, a pair of male penguins that exhibited mating habits who were observed trying to hatch rocks together. With their interest piqued, the zookeepers experimented by giving the same-sex couple a real egg to hatch out to see if the could manage it. It turned out they could and the product of which was a female chick called Tango.
This story doesn’t have a happy ending though. Due to Buddy and Pedro belonging to the endangered African penguins species, zookeepers plan to split them up and pair them off with females penguins in order to protect the species. Poor things.
Internet users have been weighing in on this topic and it’s drawing the kind of comments you’d expect. They range from gay rights activists to people condemning the act of penguin homosexuality. My opinion is that they are obviously displaying signs of a relationship (or “pair bonding” as they call it in zoo speak) but at the same time I can see the need to split them up. After all, the zoo is trying to protect the species. But it’s an interesting tale.
As as an aside note, my dad once observed same-sex tendencies in racing pigeons. My dad has kept pigeons for most of his life and he recalls a pair of male pigeons that would always try to shack up in the same nest box together. It was a funny tale to me as a young boy, but I can definitely see the parallels today…