Toronto zoo defends decision to separate 'gay' penguins dubbed ‘Brokeback Iceberg’
Published 10/11/2011 | 10:16
TORONTO zoo is splitting up a pair of male penguins whose affection has drawn headlines and jokes about "Brokeback Iceberg."
The African penguins have shared the nest they built since coming to the zoo about a year ago. But since the penguins are an endangered species, zoo officials plan to separate Pedro and Buddy so they can mate with females.
The pair has what's known as a "social bond," but it's not necessarily sexual, Tom Mason, the zoo's curator of birds and invertebrates, said.
The zoo has received hundreds of calls about the pair. Mr Mason said he got a call from a group called the Canadian Society for Gay Animals.
The story of the same-sex pair has gone viral online, leading to cheeky YouTube videos. Late-night TV comics have jumped into the icy waters of penguin passion.
But it's really not the way it looks, Mr Mason said.
"Penguins are so social they need that ... company. And the group they came from was a bachelor group waiting for a chance to be paired up with females," said MrMason, who received the penguins from a US zoo earlier this year. "They had paired up there, they came to us already paired, and it's our job to be matchmakers to get them to go with some females."
Buddy, who is 21, had a female partner for 10 years and produced some offspring but his partner died, Mr Mason said. Pedro, 10, has yet to produce offspring.