There has been much celebrating in the LGBTQ community this week over the news that Buddy and Pedro, Toronto Zoo's gay penguin couple will be reunited soon. They were split up this year in order to attempt forcing them into hetero unions. From personal experience, I'll be shocked if this works. It's like praying away the gay, an exercise in futility. Buddy and Pedro are a fully bonded pair, according to the story over at The Mary Sue, and penguins take this bond seriously. So, after a few months of giving it the old college try, they will be returned to each other, perhaps feeling a little used and confused, but none the worse for wear. The Toronto Zoo has even said that they fully support Buddy and Pedro's union. The curator says they are just hoping to ensure procreation of these African Penguins because they are an endangered species.
Why don't I think the attempts to get Buddy and Pedro to breed will work? Well, I could just state the obvious. They appear to be gay. But, I will add that I also took care of several gay flamingo couples at one of the zoos I worked for, and even when we tried to bring in new females for those boys, they continued to pair up with each other every year. They even went through the entire mating ritual together, including building a nest mound and guarding it, taking turns sitting on it without an egg to incubate. They were determined to live normal flamingo lives together.
In case you are wondering, Buddy and Pedro are not the only penguins I know who have entered and remained in fully bonded homosexual relationships. Roy and Silo, of the New York Central Park Zoo, were together for many years, and may still be together now, although I can't say for sure. They made world headlines in National Geographic back in 2004 when they adopted an unhatched egg and raised a chick together.
Homosexuality, though often carefully not called that when discussing animals scientifically, is not unnatural. It happens in nature all the time, and has been scientifically observed in over 1500 species, everything from worms and crustaceons, to dolphins and whales, to Japanese Macaques and Bonobo Chimps. And, it is not just seen between males of a species. One Ultimate Explorer episode entitled "Girl Power" actually filmed female Japanese Macaques engaged in intimate sex acts with each other.
Perhaps the most famous study, which is usually brought up among scientists when this same-sex discussion arises centers around Francis de Waal and his famous research outlined in the book, Bonobo: The Forgotten Chimp. In it, this primatologist says Bonobos are 75% bisexual. He describes them as a "make love, not war" species, and has proven that over 90% of their sexual contact has nothing to do with procreation. Instead, they are described as a "female-centered, egalitarian" Great Ape species, where "sexual behavior (in virtually every partner combination) replaces aggression and serves many social functions, [when] unrelated groups mingle instead of fighting." Yep, these are my kind of chimps, and they are very different from the male-centered, highly aggressive groups I got to know personally in zoos.
So, bond on Buddy and Pedro and all you gay animal friends. Show the world just how natural gay really is, and don't let anyone stop you. Because, you are beautiful!
Here is the video from which the now famous image above of Buddy and Pedro came, so you can see them in action. Enjoy! Also, many thanks to Andi Lea, who brought this story to my attention.