Cuddles and foreplay, but no sex for Edinburgh pandas
The doomed love match between Tian Tian and Yuan Guang has brought out British reporters' inner porn writers
TIME IS running out for Edinburgh Zoo's giant pandas Tian Tian and Yang Guang to successfully mate.
Female pandas ovulate just once a year, meaning there is a 36-hour window in which it is possible for them to become pregnant. Voyeuristic zookeepers say that Tian Tian (Sweety) and Yang Guang (Sunshine) have enjoyed a "series of encounters" over the past two days, but so far the earth has not moved for the couple.
But is it possible that the pressure is getting to Yang Guang, whose testicles have apparently enlarged by a third in preparation for his annual romp?
The Times reports that Scottish radio listeners have been requesting all manner of cheesy love songs and comic ditties to get the pair in the mood, including Marvin Gaye's Let's get it on and The Bare Necessities. The latter number would most likely just make the pair angry, perpetuating as it does the commonly held misconception that giant pandas are bears.
Meanwhile, newspaper reports read like entries to the Literary Review's Bad Sea Awards. The Daily Telegraph's Tom Chivers even penned a script in the style of a 1970s porn movie:
"EXT. California beachside house, sunshine. Vastly moustachioed panda (SUNSHINE) wearing utility belt and tight denim shorts but no shirt approaches frosted-glass front door. Smooth sax music soundtrack. SUNSHINE knocks on door.
SUNSHINE: Hello. How are you. I have come to read your bamboo meter.
SWEETIE: Oh dear, my nightgown has fallen off. Do you want to have sex?"
The Daily Mirror spoke of "natural sparks" flying between the pandas, and some "playful wrestling".
Meanwhile, The Sun, home of the tell-all celebrity romp, sounded disappointed by the pandas' indolence. Under the heading "Giant panda sex woe", its report began:
"Giant panda Sweetie dozes yesterday after failing to mate with Sunshine. Her playmate casually chomped on bamboo after their encounter on Tuesday fell flat."
However, Iain Valentine, the zoo's aptly named director of animals, education and conservation, thinks the problem is not the fact that the pandas' every move is being filmed on a ‘pandacam' but rather inexperience.
"He'll grab hold of her, he tries to mount, but she'll collapse," he said. "It becomes a game and he'll try to manoeuvre her. They need to have experience with each other."
He went on to suggest that Tian Tian is a bit of a goer, saying "she was desperately looking to be mated".
Valentine is philosophical, however, noting that the pandas only arrived at the zoo in December and have had limited time to settle.
Keepers may allow the pair to try to mate one last time this morning, if Tian Tian's hormones are still "partially elevated".