Thursday, May 3, 2012

Can a Panda Get Some Privacy, Please?

Not one of the pandas in the story, but still dang cute
Let me say this: I love pandas. I turn on the San Diego Zoo's Panda Cam whenever I need a smile.

But is there such a thing as too much panda information?

The National Zoo recently made headlines when it did a "live-tweet" of an attempt to artificially inseminate a panda.

On April 30 the hashtag #pandaAI opened the door to a world few of us could ever have peered into before, complete with photos and expert commentary.

Mei Xiang is a 13 year old giant panda who successfully gave birth in 2005, also a result of AI. It seems that Mei Xiang and her partner Tian Tian are "viable" but are in need of something like a Panda Sutra to put them on the right track.

Giant panda females are only fertile approximately 24 to 72 hours every year so should Tian Tian fail to make dinner or take out the garbage on that critical day the entire species comes one step closer to extinction.

Given that extremely limited window the team at the National Zoo has decided that Tian Tian was not going to have the chance to mess it up. He remained involved, indirectly, but his contribution had been made back in 2005 and kept frozen until last week. It's the first time I'd ever come across the phrase "vintage sperm" but they're scientists so it must be a thing, right?

This is the 8th year Mei Xiang has undergone this procedure. It did produce a cub in 2005 but while everyone at the zoo remains optimistic the reality is that giant pandas are in a lot of trouble and really need to get to work on the next generation of cuddly, adorable, bamboo-chewing cubs.

If you want to relive those tender moments between Mei Xiang and the National Zoo AI team you can check it out on Storify. Does this qualify for a NSFW tag?

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