African penguins Pedro and Buddy interact with each other at the Toronto Zoo
African penguins Pedro and Buddy in happier times at the Toronto Zoo. Reuters

Toronto Zoo's famous "gay" penguins appear to have gone their separate ways after one of them found a female mate.

The male pair, who were steady companions, were split up by the zoo in November after they began showing signs of traditional mating behaviour normally seen between male and female penguins.

Buddy and Pedro, from an endangered species of African penguins, were separated because it was urgent for them to mate with females to help ensure the survival of their kind.

The zoo reported that Buddy, 21, has now paired off with a 3-year-old female named Farai. Meanwhile, Pedro, 10, has not been quite as lucky in love and has yet to find a mate with whom to reproduce, though he has been "constantly" courting since his separation from Buddy.

The two penguins, who had been bred in captivity, arrived at the zoo in May and immediately formed an attachment. They displayed traditional mating behaviour, including preening each other and braying - the noise penguins use as a mating call. The pair also shared a nest, which they built together.

The couple became an Internet sensation once news of their relationship spread. Their fans across the world will, no doubt, be saddened to hear that the two had a spat since their split and now sit across from one another in their separate nests, according to Tom Mason, curator of birds and invertebrates at the zoo.

Mason described the penguins' relationship as a social bond, rather than a sexual one, and predicted that the birds will stick with their female partners once they are released into the general population.

Buddy previously produced offspring with a female partner he had for 10 years before she died. In contrast, Pedro has yet to reproduce.

Buddy and Pedro are not the only pair of gay penguins to grab the world's attention. Roy and Silo, two male Chinstrap penguins at New York's Central Park Zoo, exhibited similar behaviour and were given an egg to raise together as part of an experiment. Zookeepers gave the chick that was eventually hatched the name Tango.

Children's author Justin Richardson wrote the book "And Tango Makes Three" based on the story of Roy and Silo. The book is listed among the 15 most controversial picture books because of the challenges made over it by parents and organized Christian groups.