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News Reports

Just pandering to you

In case you didn’t know, the pandas have mated. BUT it wasn’t successful. Still, here’s the story, according to…hmmm….me.

Panda-monium reigned at the River Safari last Thursday as word leaked out to visitors that a mating session was in progress between Singapore’s foremost Chinese guests. Bamboos were broken and reeds were trampled as curiosity got the better of otherwise well-behaved humans who wanted to see some “action’’ between Kai Kai and Jia Jia.

Early birds caught the full 40-minute show although they had difficulty distinguishing between the male and the female of the species. Zookeepers helpfully pointed out that the “one on top’’ was Kai Kai, the male.

Parents tried to shield their children from the more graphic and acrobatic antics of the two giant pandas – to no avail. The screams of both children and pandas resounded. Fireworks went off. And people sang Stand up for Singapore.

The two pandas were non-plussed at the buzz which surrounded what should have been an intimate activity. Videos and cameras flashed as visitors sought to capture the historic, once-in-a-lifetime scene.

But what should have been the climax of the show proved elusive. Although Kai Kai had begun making overtures to his mate for some time before finally getting randy, he proved unequal to the job. Zookeepers had to supplement what comes naturally with artificial insemination.

Said Mr Quah See Meek, 45, a technician: “It was a bit of a let-down. How can Kai Kai fail? He’s already seven years old!’’

Zookeeper Pan Da Ling said Kai Kai was unable to rise to the occasion because of his lack of experience: “Kai Kai is young. He is interested and ready to try a lot of things. But in captivity, he did not have any older pandas as “a role model”, so he didn’t really know what to do.’’

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She added that panda reproduction is a “notoriously complex process, with females ovulating once a year, in which they are fertile for only 24 to 36 hours’’.

Because Jia Jia’s hormones started falling on Friday, the zookeepers needed to move quickly to artificial insemination given the short window when female pandas are able to conceive.

The pandas’ progress has been much monitored by the international community which had worried about the suitability of Singapore’s hot and humid climate. Attempts to vary ventilation and lighting to simulate the pandas’ Sichuan home and to get them in the mood for love had been tried since November.

The duo’s 40-minute effort eclipsed that held by Lu Lu and Xi Mei, a couple from the Sichuan Bifengxia Giant Panda Research Centre in Ya’an. Two weeks ago, they had set a  marathon 18 min 3 sec session, which was broadcast on the Internet via a website that monitors pandas.

The Wildlife Reserves Singapore spokesman it will apply to the Guiness Book of World Records to enter Kai Kai and Jia Jia for accomplishing the longest sex show for pandas. The spokesman brushed off protests from private groups and parents-against-panda-porn. “They don’t realise what an achievement this is. It shows that Singapore is a good place for foreign talent.’’

Asked why the zoo had kept quiet about the feat until now, Dr Pan said: “We didn’t want to give the pandas more post-copulation stress. We also did not want to pander to voyeurs. We envisage that even more visitors will be coming to see them since they are no longer virgins.’’

She added that China had sent a congratulatory message to the Chinese couple and all eyes are now on Jia Jia. “We are pregnant with hope,’’ said Dr Pan.

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An ex-journalist who can't get enough of the news after being in the business for 26 years

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