(CNSNews.com) – A spokesperson for the Toronto Zoo said the two male African penguins, Buddy and Pedro, which have been portrayed in some media reports as “gay” are actually part of a breeding program for endangered species and that their bond is “social,” not “sexual.”
Buddy, in fact, had a female mate for 10 years and they produced baby penguins until she died.
Shanna Young, executive director of marketing and communications for the zoo, told CNSNews.com that Buddy, 20, and Pedro, 10, were placed in the zoo’s African penguin exhibit as part the Species Survival Program that pairs males and females to promote “genetic diversity” and prevent “in-breeding.”
“The SSP recommends their breeding and so since Buddy and Pedro are genetically important, they were sent to Toronto to become part of the colony here and hopefully breed with female penguins,” Young said.
Because they were brought to the Toronto Zoo together, they have “bonded” as friends, Young said.
“The bond is better described as a social bond with these two male penguins,” Young said. “It is not a sexual bond.”
They are familiar with each other having come from a bachelor group at another zoo before they were transferred to the Toronto Zoo, she said.
Young said Buddy had a female mate for more than 10 years at a zoo in Baltimore, Md., and the pair produced offspring.
Buddy and Pedro were moved together to the Toronto Zoo, where Pedro will be breeding with females for the first time.
Young said the breeding season lasts several weeks and then the penguins will be returned to their colony.
According to some news reports, Pedro and Buddy were separated because they were “gay” and, after public outcry, plans were made to reunite the pair.
And some involved with the zoo have commented on the penguins, including Joe Torzsok, chairman of the of the Toronto Zoo board.
“It’s a complicated issue, but they seem to be in a loving relationship of some sort,’’ Torzsok told the Toronto Star.
Young, however, is putting a positive spin on all of the attention Pedro and Buddy are getting in the press.
“This story has certainly helped many people to think about wildlife and endangered species, and many for the first time,” Young said.