Save the gay penguins!

Buddy and Pedro found love at the zoo -- but now obligation to their dwindling species is driving them apart

Topics: LGBT, Animals,

Save the gay penguins!

It’s a poignant story of forbidden love and forced separation. The couple has only had eyes for each other even before they moved to Toronto last spring. They do things other couples like to do – go swimming, preen for each other, sleep together. But because they’re two guys — guys with obligations to keep their families going – they’re being split up and thrown into the singles pool. Because they reside in Canada, however, Buddy and Pedro, the gay African penguins, will not be obliged to attend any Michele Bachmann rallies.

The story of Buddy and Pedro has made headlines around the world. Despite their age difference (at 20, Buddy is twice as old as Pedro) The Star reports that that two “formed a connection… as part of a bachelor flock” back in Toledo. The relationship continued in Toronto, where they bray mating calls to each other, hang out near each other, and “pair off together every night” in their impeccable, John Derian-appointed burrow. Toronto zoo board chair Joe Torzsok said last week that “It’s a complicated issue, but they seem to be in a loving relationship of some sort.”

But that loving relationship will soon come to and end. Buddy and Pedro are an endangered breed, which means that zoo officials want them to turn off the Rufus Wainwright, join the football team and start mixing with the ladies. A generation ago, there were an estimated 225,000 African penguins in the wild. Now their population is 60,000 – and shrinking rapidly. The population in captivity is therefore routinely paired off and “and even moved to different zoos” in the hopes of fruitful unions. Tom Mason, the zoo’s curator of birds and invertebrates, told the National Post hopefully Monday that “The [zoo's] two girls have been following them; we just have to get the boys interested in looking at them.” Oh, Tom. If that didn’t work on our prom dates, it doesn’t sound like a sure bet for Buddy and Pedro.

Yet gay penguins do sometimes change their stripes. Roy and Silo, New York’s happily paired male chinstrap penguins — who even raised a child together – split after Silo took up with a homewrecking lady penguin named Scrappy. San Francisco’s Harry and Pepper likewise parted ways when a woman came between them. Breakups happen, be you a Kardashian or an African penguin.

Yet the idea of love – enduring, devoted love – is so deeply engrained in us that it’s easy to ascribe romantic hopes even on flightless birds. When we want to see cold-eyed creatures reproducing out of some sense of duty to the bloodline, we’ll watch the royal family. But dammit, we expect more for our penguins. already has a petition to “stop The Toronto Zoo from ruining the lives of these two penguins and send a message that forcing gay creatures to mate with the opposite gender will not make them straight.” But the Toronto Zoo isn’t Exodus International, nor is this story “Brokeback Mountain” with krill. Nobody’s trying to make Pedro and Buddy live a lie. They just hope they can hook up a few times for the sake of the whole family.

Like you, I want Buddy and Pedro to have a long and happy life together, making “It Gets Better” videos of encouragement for other gay penguins, serving as grand marshals of the Gay Penguin Pride parade, spending summers frolicking off the coast of Provincetown. No one’s disputing that animals are profoundly capable of genuine bonds and affection — and yes, that includes the gay kind. And let’s face it, Buddy and Pedro have already found what some of us spend a lifetime fruitlessly chasing. But they are, you know, penguins. As Tom Mason explains, “If [they] weren’t genetically important, then we’d let them do their thing.” So maybe they can go off and do their thing with girls for a while, for the sake of the species, before returning to each other’s tiny flapping wings. You don’t have to marry them, Pedro and Buddy. Just don’t break their hearts.

Mary Elizabeth Williams

Mary Elizabeth Williams is a staff writer for Salon and the author of "Gimme Shelter: My Three Years Searching for the American Dream." Follow her on Twitter: @embeedub.

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 11
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails
    Burger King Japan

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Burger King's black cheeseburger: Made with squid ink and bamboo charcoal, arguably a symbol of meat's destructive effect on the planet. Only available in Japan.

    Elite Daily/Twitter

    2014's fast food atrocities

    McDonald's Black Burger: Because the laws of competition say that once Burger King introduces a black cheeseburger, it's only a matter of time before McDonald's follows suit. You still don't have to eat it.


    2014's fast food atrocities

    Domino's Specialty Chicken: It's like regular pizza, except instead of a crust, there's fried chicken. The company's marketing officer calls it "one of the most creative, innovative menu items we have ever had” -- brain power put to good use.


    2014's fast food atrocities

    Arby's Meat Mountain: The viral off-menu product containing eight different types of meat that, on second read, was probably engineered by Arby's all along. Horrific, regardless.


    2014's fast food atrocities

    KFC'S ZINGER DOUBLE DOWN KING: A sandwich made by adding a burger patty to the infamous chicken-instead-of-buns creation can only be described using all caps. NO BUN ALL MEAT. Only available in South Korea.

    Taco Bell

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Taco Bell's Waffle Taco: It took two years for Taco Bell to develop this waffle folded in the shape of a taco, the stand-out star of its new breakfast menu.

    Michele Parente/Twitter

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Krispy Kreme Triple Cheeseburger: Only attendees at the San Diego County Fair were given the opportunity to taste the official version of this donut-hamburger-heart attack combo. The rest of America has reasonable odds of not dropping dead tomorrow.

    Taco Bell

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Taco Bell's Quesarito: A burrito wrapped in a quesadilla inside an enigma. Quarantined to one store in Oklahoma City.

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Boston Pizza's Pizza Cake: The people's choice winner of a Canadian pizza chain's contest whose real aim, we'd imagine, is to prove that there's no such thing as "too far." Currently in development.


    2014's fast food atrocities

    7-Eleven's Doritos Loaded: "For something decadent and artificial by design," wrote one impassioned reviewer, "it only tasted of the latter."

  • Recent Slide Shows



Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>