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Buddy And Pedro, Gay Penguins At Toronto Zoo, Are Heading For A Split

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TORONTO - Canada's newest celebrity couple is headed for a breakup and the Internet is all abuzz.

It seems everybody wants to know what the real story is between Pedro and Buddy, the Toronto Zoo's same-sex penguin sweethearts.

The two male African penguins, who came to the zoo about a year ago from Toledo, appear to have eyes only for each other. According to zoo workers, they swim together and share the nest they built.

But since the penguins are an endangered species, zoo officials plan to separate Pedro and Buddy so they can mate with females.

Tom Mason, the zoo's curator of birds and invertebrates, says the birds have what's known as a "social bond" but it's not necessarily a sexual one.

"They have one another's backs," he said.

Mason admits some surprise at the attention the story has garnered around the world but adds: "People have a very strong tendency to anthropomorphize things."

"They try to think of penguins as humans — and they're not."

The story of the same-sex pair has gone viral on the web, leading to cheeky YouTube videos and scandalous headlines.

"Tough love: Toronto Zoo to separate 'gay' penguin couple" TIME's website announced. From msnbc.com came "Birds of a feather? Zoo to split up same-sex penguin pair" while The Telegraph in Calcutta called it "The love that dare squawk its name."

Late-night TV comics were also jumping into the icy waters of penguin passion. Jimmy Kimmel riffed on the story during a recent monologue, calling it "Brokeback Iceberg" and claiming the lovebirds were spotted at a Lady Gaga concert.

The zoo has been inundated with hundreds of calls about the popular pair. Mason said he even got a call from someone claiming to represent the Canadian Society for Gay Animals.

But it's really not the way it looks, Mason said Wednesday.

"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."

"(Buddy and Pedro) had paired up there, they came to us already paired and it's our job to be match-makers to get them to go with some females," he said.

Buddy, who is 21, had a female partner for 10 years and produced some offspring but his partner died, Mason said. Pedro, 10, has yet to produce offspring.

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