When a shy pair of giant pandas proved reluctant to join in a breeding scheme, it was decided they needed a lesson in love. Vets played five-year-old Ke Lin and her male companion Yongyong a tape of pandas lustily mating in the wild.
They hope the result will be the patter of tiny paws at China’s breeding and research centre in Chengdu, Sichuan province. ‘Every time Yongyong tried to mount her, Ke Lin fought him off and we were worried she was going to miss her three-day breeding cycle,’ said a spokesman. ‘So we played them the film and she took great interest in it.
After that there was no stopping her and they mated successfully. ‘In the wild, Ke Lin would have seen lots of other pandas mating but in captivity, it’s no wonder she needed help.’ The success rate of breeding giant pandas in captivity has been notoriously low. Few zoos outside China have managed to achieve results. Females are in season for such a small window and are also known to be very selective on their mates.
Breeding in captivity has become vital to the giant pandas’ survival with the destruction of bamboo forests in China and south-east Asia. In the past Zoo keepers at the Chengdu centre have put their charges through a rigorous exercise scheme – mainly involving apples – with the aim of improving their mating skills.
The fruit is dangled from a string above the panda, luring it to stand on two legs. Keepers claim the technique teaches the creatures to perform a dance-like routine that strengthens the pelvic and hip area, boosting the animal’s stamina. The claim this form of ‘sexercise’ should aid the males when mating.