Desperate Adelaide Zoo hope ‘panda porn’ will inspire love

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Desperate Adelaide Zoo hope ‘panda porn’ will inspire love

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Updated

September 20, 2018 17:55:04

All the ‘relatives’ were keen for the romance to proceed, the setting was right, the timing perfect, but at the end of the day the young couple just weren’t that into it.

It’s a familiar story for Adelaide Zoo’s giant pandas, Wang Wang and Fu Ni.

As senior veterinarian and chief matchmaker, Ian Smith explained the panda’s brief window of fertility — just 36 hours a year — ended without Wang Wang and Fu Ni mating.

“Certainly this year is the closest we’ve had to a natural mating,” Mr Smith said.

“Wang Wang has been a little more dominant [and] he’s certainly assuming the position, but I think Fu Ni probably wants a little bit more wooing, a little bit more time.

“If only it were as easy as flowers and chocolates.”

With an endangered species, like the giant panda, the notion of “close, but no cigar” is not good enough.

Once again the zoo’s hopes for the pitter patter of little panda paws lie with artificial insemination.

They’ve tried it before — unsuccessfully — but Adelaide Zoo Director Elaine Bensted explained Adelaide is not alone there.

“Outside China, they’ve actually had very mixed results [with artificial insemination],” she said.

“Vienna Zoo has been very successful with panda breeding, but there are many other zoos that have not achieved a pregnancy, despite having had pandas for as long as, or even longer than Adelaide Zoo.”

Pandas are famed for their dietary peculiarities.

Despite having the digestive system of a carnivore, they dine almost exclusively on bamboo, preferring roots, shoots and leaves, according to the China Highlights website.

No surprise then that panda pregnancies aren’t straightforward either.

“So now we just sit and wait,” Ms Bensted said.

“It is incredibly difficult to tell when a female panda is actually pregnant, so from here on in we treat her as if she is.

“On average their gestation is four, four-and-a-half months, but there have been some in the world that are just over three months and one that was close to 12 months after the insemination.

“They are challenging animals to breed in captivity.”

Testing has shown there’s no biological impediment to Fu Ni and Wang Wang reproducing the old-fashioned way — both are fertile.

‘Inexperienced pandas’ create issues

Naturally, the zoo has pondered why its pandas insist on keeping their relationship platonic.

Both Elaine Bensted and Ian Smith said Adelaide was the only zoo in the world outside China to have received a pair of inexperienced, sexually-immature pandas.

“They arrived as very inexperienced pandas. They’ve probably never seen that kind of thing happen so it was a little bit like ‘The Blue Lagoon’ revisited,” Mr Smith said, referencing the 1980 coming-of-age film.

It’s no easy task to give inexperienced pandas some experience, given they are the only two pandas in the Southern Hemisphere.

So the zoo has resorted to giving a more optical education.

“We’ve tried some visual stuff, and that’s been tried significantly overseas,” Mr Smith said.

“You can sort of get panda porn on the TV, I’m sure if you searched that in Youtube [you’d find it], do it on your home computer not your work one.”

Both Wang Wang and Fu Ni are still very young, but nevertheless, the clock is ticking — not the biological one, but the contractual one.

China retains ownership of all pandas worldwide, and the 10-year Adelaide agreement ends next year.

It costs one million dollars [US] a year to keep Wang Wang and Fu Ni here and Elaine Bensted said that was dependent on continuing Commonwealth money.

“That sort of money is beyond our resources, we couldn’t do that,” Ms Bensted said.

“There’s no guarantee, but we’ve always said we’d like to keep giant pandas at Adelaide Zoo.”

While Wang Wang and Fu Ni have yet to discover true love in one another’s paws, Adelaide Zoo visitors clearly adore them.

Topics:

animals,

zoos,

animal-behaviour,

adelaide-5000,

sa

First posted

September 20, 2018 17:27:01



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