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Washington Post March 26, 2002


Frisky panda makes his move -- to delight of zoo, distress of mate

WASHINGTON - Suddenly, the National Zoo's male panda wants to be more than just friends. After 15 months of playful romping with Mei Xiang, Tian Tian made his move Sunday morning.

As recounted by zoo officials, the 265-pound male giant panda jumped the 205-pound female without warning, bit her, pinned her down and tried to mate with her.

Mei Xiang squealed and resisted - and got away as soon as she could. She climbed her favorite tree to escape and stayed there for most of the next 36 hours, coming down only to eat nervously and huddle in a rock grotto to get out of the rain.

National Zoo scientists and keepers hope the pair will mate and have cubs during their 10-year stay in Washington on loan from China. But given that Mei Xiang apparently isn't ready, they don't expect any offspring this year.

Mei Xiang wasn't injured Sunday, but zoo officials are concern ed that she could be. Until they're sure Tian Tian will control himself, they plan to keep the pair apart during the day, a change from the usual routine. The animals already sleep in separate dens each night.

Four-year-old Tian Tian apparently is in the grip of rising hormone levels, according to Lisa Stevens, the zoo's associate curator for primates and pandas. Even before Sunday, keepers noted he seemed increasingly restless.

Mei Xiang is three, the same age as the youngest female panda known to have bred in China. Zoo officials believe her lack of interest means she isn't in heat, but hormone tests due back later this week will tell the full story.

At the Panda House Tuesday, Mei Xiang was back indoors. She paced, stood on her hind legs, squatted to rub her scent on the floor and seemed to be "in a reassessment mode," Stevens said.

"She seems uneasy and nervous," Stevens said. "She was as surprised (Sunday) as we were. Here she is, a young, cub-like female, and here is this male who jumps on her and is very aggressive for the first time."

Tian Tian, meanwhile, was outdoors alone Tuesday. He chomped bamboo, his muscles bulging and coat gleaming in the cool mist.

Zoo keepers and scientists don't know what triggered his lustful actions, or how long they'll last. Was he impelled by his hormones? Did he get a sign from the female, or think he did? They also don't know why she's marking the ground with her scent: A jittery reaction, or another kind of arousal?

Little is known about basic panda biology, although a research program is under way to provide answers. The zoo's previous panda pair, Ling-Ling and Hsing-Hsing, also a gift from China, didn't mate for several years, in part because the male was a tad inept.

"In five years, we will know more," Stevens said. "All of this is kind of new territory for us."

-- (, March 27, 2002


Mei Xiang, Tian Tian just wants some poontang.

-- (, March 27, 2002.

He didn't even try to get her drunk first? Jeez.

-- (what@a.maroon), March 27, 2002.

because the male was a tad inept.


-- Anita (, March 27, 2002.

From the Gi ant pandas (ain't Google wonderful?)---

Reproduction, Courtship, and Parental Care:

The panda courtship and mating period is seasonal. During courtship pandas become more vocal, become restless, and scent mark more frequently. Sexual maturity in both sexes occurs at 5.5-6.5 years. 2-5 males may compete for a single female, with the male with higher rank gets priority. The female is in heat for 2-3 days. After copulation and conception the pandas go back to their solitary life. Conceptions usually occur between mid-March and mid-May. They peak in April and early May. If a female doesn't conceive she may go into heat again in September and October. There is a delayed implantation of the embryo for 1.5-4 months. Normal gestation period ranges from 97-163 days. Newborns weigh 90-130g and are highly altricial (helpless,underdeveloped). When twins are born, the mother panda usually allows one of the cubs to die. A female will chose a hollow tree or a cave to give birth. The interval between births is 2 years. If a cub dies within the first year, the female may have another cub the next year.

Anita, did it ever occur to you that Mei Xiang might be a PT?

-- (, March 27, 2002.

Okay, Lars. I give. What is PT?

-- Anita (, March 27, 2002.

Oh...personally, I think the female may be a bit young yet for mating. I had a neighbor once who wanted to mate her female dog with my male dog. Her dog went into heat, she brought him over, and my dog humped her head. Sad thing was that my dog went into a deep depression over it all. I took him to the vet, who said, "Has he had any traumatizing experiences lately?" I related the attempted mating and he said, "That would do it. He's simply too young."

-- Anita (, March 27, 2002.

PT may be an out of date term. In my day, it was a teen boy reference to certain teen girls. PT = "prick-tease". A variation was CT.

"Humped her head"? Sounds like your pup simply wanted oral sex.

-- (, March 27, 2002.

Now wait a minute... can't a dog give himself oral sex?

-- Maria (, March 27, 2002.

Yes, but it's more fun when someone else does it. The human equivalent would be a hand job.

-- (, March 27, 2002.

Ahh! speaking from experience, eh?

-- Maria (, March 27, 2002.

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