After living together for more than a decade, a big, beautiful panda finally let her lucky male panda friend hit it from the back.
This important update comes from Ocean Park Zoo in Hong Kong, which announced in a celebratory press release that its giant pandas, Le Le and Ying Ying, “succeeded in natural mating at around 9am this morning” for the first time ever. “Since Ying Ying and Le Le’s arrival in Hong Kong in 2007, and attempts at natural mating since 2010, they unfortunately have yet to succeed until this year,” said Michael Boos, executive director of zoological operation and conservation, calling the news “extremely exciting for all of us.” Indeed!
Those well read on the subject of panda sex will understand just how noteworthy this coitus is. Pandas are notoriously bad at mating, largely because male pandas — like their human counterparts, some might say — are inept at reading females’ signals. “Male giant pandas are bad at working out when a female is likely to welcome their advances, and bad at knowing what to do next if they do happen to stumble upon a willing mate,” reads a Guardian article on the subject. “In the unlikely event that they get around to having sex, they’re often too quick about the whole business to get the female pregnant.”
Another reason why the zoo is so excited: Pandas are a vulnerable species, and, as noted by Boos, “the chance of pregnancy via natural mating is higher than by artificial insemination.”
So, what inspired the pandas to finally get it on in the empty zoo? Ocean Park offered a few voyeuristic details about how they seduced each other: “Since late March, Ying Ying began spending more time playing in the water, while Le Le has been leaving scent-markings around his habitat and searching the area for Ying Ying’s scent.” Splish-splashing in tepid water? Searching for each other’s scent? Okay, hot!