Lifestyle & Belief

Pandas made moves but failed to mate


Male giant panda Yang Guang (Sunshine) walks in his enclosure at Edinburgh Zoo. The zoo's attempts to get him to mate with female panda Tian Tian failed during the critical 36-hour period on April 4, 2012.



The British tabloid The Sun may have called it a "sex tape" but the giant pandas at the Edinburgh Zoo did not get it on despite what the zoo's director called a "huge amount of eagerness and attraction," according to the BBC.

Tian Tian and Yang Guang, also known as Sweetie and Sunshine respectively, had a "series of encounters" said zoo officials, but things went no further.

After being kept in separate enclosures since their arrival in December, the two pandas were allowed to meet each other for the first time during Sweetie's ovulation cycle. The pandas were taken off display, the "pandacam" was turned off, and Sunshine was allowed into Sweetie's enclosure in five-minute intervals, said the BBC.

Though their body language was encouraging, zoo staff said Sweetie's tail kept getting in the way.

The 36-hour window during which female pandas ovulate was fast closing on the pair and Thursday morning may be their last chance for romance, if Tian Tian's hormone levels are still elevated, said the BBC.

More on GlobalPost: UK's only panda pair ushered into zoo 'love channel' for 36-hour mating attempt

Zoo officials had been carefully optimistic because both the pandas had reproduced before.

The Sun reported that the zoo said, "[Sweetie] was extremely interested and showing all the right signs. She was calling out to him in a high pitched sound." Reportedly, "Sweetie was rubbing against the sides of the love tunnel before it opened. As soon as they were introduced, they had a bit of 'wrestling.'"

Sadly, "despite their increasingly amorous calls to each other, their paw – and muzzle-touching through the love tunnel grille, and yearning glances, their relative inexperience had shown through," said The Guardian.

Edinburgh Zoo's director of conservation, Iain Valentine, said, "We are hugely encouraged by how much the natural sparks flew between the two animals, as like humans, not all male and female pandas are attracted to each other. Both were keen to mate, but their inexperience showed. Baby cubs would have been a bonus this year, but we have to appreciate that the pandas have only just arrived and have had limited time to settle," according to the BBC.