Brokeback Iceberg: Bromancing penguins have their wings clipped

Zoo breaks up bachelor penguin buddies in hopes of getting a little breeding action started.

Photo of Buddy and Pedro courtesy of moxiebird.com.

 

It's enough to make a lad sad.

The Toronto Zoo has broken up Buddy and Pedro, the city's famed bachelor penguin buddies, in a bid to force the two to spend a little time with female birds -- and get on with mating.

When news broke, there was considerable public outrage that the male couple known as The Gay Penguins were being forced apart.

Zookeepers denied public rumours that the pair were gay, saying that they had simply bonded too well with each other and needed a chance for a little alternative company. The results so far? Buddy's already found himself a girlfriend. Pedro has his eye on a bird but has yet to get lucky, the zoo says.

The Canadian Press has all the romantic details:

TORONTO -- Buddy and Pedro, once one of Toronto's hottest "it" couples, have broken up amid pregnancy rumours and a budding relationship by one of them with what Team Pedro will undoubtedly call a femme fatale.

It only took Buddy 72 hours to bond with Farai, a female penguin he was matched with on Nov. 19 after being separated from Pedro. Handlers at the Toronto Zoo split up the pair out of concern their same-sex bond would hamper breeding efforts.

Pedro has yet to get lucky, but zoo officials say it's not for a lack of trying.

"Pedro is very ready to go, per se, but his prospective mate Thandiwey is a little shy,'' Tom Mason, the zoo's curator of birds and invertebrates, said Monday.

"She's not quite ready to go yet, but they're beginners; they're just starting life as a pair.''

The story of the star-crossed birds took on a life of its own when the two African penguins, dubbed Toronto's "gay penguins,'' became an Internet sensation last month amid outrage over their pending separation.

Some cheeky headlines dubbed theirs "the love that dare squawk its name.'' Late-night TV comic Jimmy Kimmel took on the story during a monologue, calling it "Brokeback Iceberg.''

But Mason emphasized their bond was social, not sexual-- and not at all uncommon.

The two simply had each other's backs, he said, and preferred each other's company to that of other penguins.

"We don't think of gay penguins,'' he said. "They're bonded pairs, they break up in the wild, they break up in captivity.''

The bromance was doomed from the start, said Mason. The zoo simply had to intervene to ensure the bachelor penguins chose wisely and made the right genetic match, he explained.

And unlike the love affairs of other celebrity couples, when Pedro and Buddy split, it was the real thing.

"There will be a dozen birds swimming around together and they'll interact in that respect, but as for going into the corner, Buddy and Pedro, I don't believe that will happen,'' Mason said.

"They'll go into a corner and it will be Buddy and Farai and hopefully Pedro with Thandiwey.''

Zoo officials are hoping the first babies will come by April, and "given the amount of breeding activity,'' it could happen as early as January if an egg is laid soon.

Buddy, who is 21, had a female mate for 10 years and produced some offspring before his partner died.

Pedro, 10, has yet to produce any offspring.

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