Animal sex is an odd subject to write about and an even more bizarre one to witness. Don’t worry, I didn’t seek it out – but it was imposed upon me by an amorous giraffe at the Los Angeles Zoo. You could tell by the wild shrieks and awkward giggles of the adults (not to mention the shielding of youngsters) that animal sex is an uncomfortable fact to face. It’s kinda like old people having sex — we know it goes on, but we’d rather not know about it.
However, the fearless folks at China’s Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding are facing the issue of panda procreation head on. With only 2,000 notoriously asexual pandas left in the world, it’s imperative that they mate and quickly. After forcing the pandas to view videos of the panda equivalent of Paris Hilton’s most famous movie, researchers tried a new approach. Exercise.
I think Plenty summed it up the best: “Dubbed ‘dirty dancing’ by China Daily, the ‘sexercise’ program encourages male pandas to walk on their hind legs — which in turn, says researchers, strengthens their pelvic and hip muscles and boosts their sexual stamina.” Other techniques include getting older pandas to mate in front of younger ones; moving food around so that the pandas have to get busy to retrieve it; and switching the male and female cages so that each gender gets used to each others’ smell.
Ironically, if these same tactics were to be employed on humans, it would probably spell the end of civilization.
But apparently, the Dr Ruth approaches are paying off. According to the deputy chief of the base, Fei Lisong, more than “30% percent of the facility’s pandas can now have sex ‘naturally’, compared with only 10% when he started working at the base 10 years ago.” This is good news for China, which hopes to boost panda numbers by this summer’s Olympics…thereby deflecting attention away from less cute and cuddly issues like Tibet, Darfur and air pollution, just to name a few.