Well, how would you feel if you were being "closely observed" during mating?
The giant panda mating season, which lasts no longer than two days each year, began Tuesday, according to experts at the Smithsonian's National Zoo, who watched Mei Xiang (may-SHONG) and Tian Tian (tee-Yen tee-Yen) try to get it on.
After determining that "satisfactory mating did not occur" (who wants to get that memo?), the zookeepers and "reproduction scientists" (now there's a job title!) took matters into their own hands: "Both pandas were anesthetized, allowing zoo scientists to collect sperm from Tian Tian and insert it directly into Mei Xiang's uterus," as the Smithsonian put it.
As if our friend's impotence weren't enough, for the next Tian Tian will be separated from his delicate, 240-pound "beautiful bear" (Mei Xiang in Chinese means either "beautiful bear," "beautiful fragrance" or maybe something else.)
"Keeping the pandas separated will reduce the risk of increased stress hormone levels in Mei Xiang, which could jeopardize ovulation, conception and implantation," according to the Smithsonian. "Veterinarians will monitor Mei Xiang's hormone levels and perform ultrasounds to determine whether or not she is pregnant."
The good news for Tian Tian is that his juice is top shelf stuff. A "comprehensive breeding plan" developed for Mei Xiang (impatient grandmothers-in-waiting take note) calls him an "ideal sperm donor." No surprise, given that the zoo's first successful pregnancy (after all, it really is the zoo's, not just Mei Xiang's) was between these two very bears, and they produced Tai Shan (tie-SHON, or Butterstick) in 2005.
Tai Shan, like most other endangered pandas born in captivity around the world, is destined to be repatriated to natural environs in China. His parents (his many, many parents) can be proud to have played a role in saving this majestic, if reproductively troubled, species.
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