As people around the world express sympathy for their plight, Toronto Zoo has said its gay penguins will be reunited by the spring of next year.

Buddy and Pedro, African penguins, had “pair bonded” before they arrived at the zoo in Canada but for the sake of their species are to be paired with females this winter.

Aged 20 and 10 respectively, Buddy had previously mated with a female.

The African penguin is endangered with fewer than a quarter of a million individuals left, and the zoo said it may need the two males to produce offspring in order to increase animal numbers.

Tom Mason, the zoo’s Curator of Invertebrates and Birds told PinkNews.co.uk the move was necessary, but only temporary.

He said: “The population is good but we have to be careful to ensure that all individuals or as many as possible have genetic representation within the community. This will maximize the chances of survival of the population.”

He said males and females will be able to mix freely, but if Buddy and Pedro show no interest in mating with a female, they will need to be separated for a while.

Mr Mason said: “There will be a limited time of separation but it will not be permanent. No matter what happens all the penguins will be re-united by spring.

“If Pedro and Buddy wish to get back together, they will be welcome to do so.”