Zoos play an integral role in the reestablishment of dwindling species, conducting breeding programs that aim to preserve genetic diversity by pairing up endangered animals in the hope of securing the next generation. One charismatic species that’s benefited from such conservation efforts is the panda. As clumsy as they are captivating, these animals have struggled somewhat, sexually speaking, to reignite that drive to procreate that’s pretty essential when avoiding extinction. Zoos have even tried showing pandas porn in a bid to spark romance and using artificial insemination to impregnate females, though even fertilized embryos seem to fail to implant.
The struggle, it seems, is real and is one that was captured quite beautifully in a recent Instagram triptych from Copenhagen Zoo where keepers were hoping that the stars were aligning for two resident pandas being sent on a date earlier this year.
“In only a couple of days, we expect the female panda's hormone levels to drop drastically, indicating the beginning of her heat,” wrote the zoo in an Instagram post. “Then, we immediately open the gates to let them meet. They're only interested in each other these 2-3 days a year. We don't want to be too late and miss it, but we also don't want to be too early and waste their scarce energy on anything other than mating.”
A tight window for saving the species, but one worth grabbing. While there are only expected to be around 500 to 1,000 mature animals in the wild, the IUCN Red List currently lists the giant panda population as Increasing. Hopeful scenes also played out at Ocean Park in Hong Kong during lockdown last year, where, free from prying eyes, two pandas finally mated after a decade of keepers trying to set them up. If this institution saw success for their captive animals, perhaps Copenhagen could too?
The first of three rollercoaster videos appears to set proceedings as off to a good start, with one of the could-be lovers doing a little self-care in the form of a bath. Flash forward to date day two, however, and it’s a very different story.
Far from interested in the advances from Mao Sun, the female, we see Xing Er, the male, munching on some bamboo. Credit to Mao Sun for persisting in the face of such thinly-veiled rejection, but as video footage from date number three demonstrates, perseverance did not pay off.
It seems Mao Sun’s three-day window might have been missed as a result of some ill-timed snacking on Xing Er’s part. Better luck next time, guys.