A Frank Talk About Panda Sex

How exciting that Mei Xiang the panda has given birth to twins at her home in Smithsonian’s National Zoo. As we all know, pandas are endangered. The giant panda population totals around 1000-2000 individuals, now only found in the wild in Shanxi, Gansu, and Sichuan provinces of China. Pandas area a victim of habitat loss and poaching, two things that wipe out a species faster than anything. Why you may wonder, is life so hard for  pandas?

Factors contributing to their decline include the following:
Problem #1. Bamboo forms 80% of the diet of both wild and captive pandas, with the remaining 20% being eggs, rodents, insects, and other protein sources. This low-calorie diet makes them a little lazy.
Problem #2. Female pandas only go into heat once a year and this might last a day or maybe three at the most.  Males only have sperm for part of the year.

Problem #3. Even when they have sperm, they sometimes can’t figure out what to do with it. Pandas like to be alone and yet, need some sex lessons from others, prompting preservationists to prepare sex tapes for pandas. How effective these are has yet to be proven. The panda twins were conceived with artificial insemination from two donors so probably the panda sex tapes aren’t all that titillating for the pandas.

Problem #4. Fireflies flash, birds sing, but panda communication is primarily through scent. Scents diffuse slowly although persistently and when you live alone, have a day to mate, and there aren’t many of you this could put you on the 40-year old virgin train.

It’s good they are in zoos, right? Well, maybe not. Pandas have another problem(this makes 5) . They can accumulate perfluorinated compounds (PFCs), artificial substances used in water proofing and found in carpets, textiles, leather, food containers, noon-stick pans, fire-fighting foams, cosmetics, and upholstery . This toxin is world wide. In China it’s showing up in wildlife, including pandas.Pandas in zoos and near cities have more PFCs than those in the wild.These substances could interfere with panda reproduction. At least, they cause reproductive troubles in lab rats, making the offspring weaker.

One last issue facing the new panda babies is that mom seems overwhelmed by multiples. (In fact, the smaller twin has died.)

Will pandas make a come back? it’s hard to say. But one national symbol did so thanks to hearty regulations, and so, it’s possible. Here’s hoping and congratulations to the Smithsonian Zoo and Mei Xiang.

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