Earlier this year, Tian Tian the giant panda became an Internet hit after a video of him revelling in the snow at the Smithsonian National Zoo in Washington went viral. Now he’s at it again, this time splashing about in a bubble bath as spring arrives.
Born in China in 1997, 18-year-old Tian Tian is one of four giant pandas currently housed at the zoo, along with a female named Mei Xiang and the pair’s two cubs, Bao Bao and Bei Bei. Despite being the father of both of the young pandas, Tian Tian has never actually successfully mated with Mei Xiang, who was artificially inseminated with his sperm.
His lack of reproductive prowess doesn’t seem to bother him, however, as he looks more than happy enough playing around in the water.
Tian Tian Playing in a Tub
Rub-a-dub-dub #TianTian in a tub! Keepers provided him a tub of water with non-toxic bubble bath soap. He really soaked it up. He rubbed it on his ears—which is called scent-anointing. (Wait for the tail wiggle!) Pandas do not bathe regularly in the wild, but when Tian Tian is in rut—meaning he’s exhibiting behaviors associated with breeding season—he especially likes to play in water. #PandaStory
Posted by Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute on Wednesday, 23 March 2016
Smithsonian National Zoo. Facebook/NationalZoo
The difficulty that captive pandas tend to have when mating is, however, a cause for concern for conservationists trying to implement breeding programs in order to increase the world’s population of giant pandas. The reasons for these difficulties are not fully understood, although according to one recent study, man-made noise pollution could be drowning out the bears’ mating calls.