The bear truth: why happy pandas can’t be bothered to find a partner

Researchers now think pandas’ notoriously low libido is because they are too comfortable to make the effort to search for a mate

Name: Panda sex.

Age: 18m years old.

Frequency: Famously rare.

Yes, why is that? If I were a panda, I’d be at it all the time. I think from this we can determine two things: first that you are a pervert, and second that you are unhappy.

Hey, I’m not unhappy! Maybe you have more in common with pandas than you thought. Researchers have posited that the notoriously low panda libido might be down to simple contentment.

How so? Well, a study published in Conservation Biology has suggested that if pandas find the perfect habitat – in this instance a cool, moderately low-lying area rich with bamboo and far from humans – then they will just happily settle down and not go anywhere.

Who can blame them? That sounds perfect. Well, the worry is that by staying in the same area, they aren’t going out to search for food or mates, which reduces their genetic diversity, which will eventually lead to their extinction.

So you’re saying that pandas prefer comfortable solitude to sex? Yes.

And it’s possible to be so comfortable that you might take down your entire species? Yes.

Am … am I a panda? If you are, I have to commend your ability to type so accurately with your great big paws.

Do scientists want to make pandas less comfortable? To some extent, yes. The researchers have found that the ideal level of comfort to keep the pandas alive is 80%.

Why 80%? Because then they are comfortable enough to thrive, but there’s still enough dissatisfaction to make them leave home, bump into a sexy panda stranger and get it on.

Great! Job sorted. Well, that’s only step one. Even if two pandas were to clap eyes on each other and instantly fall in love, it doesn’t mean that we would hear the pitter patter of tiny paws any time soon. Remember the story of Tian Tian?

Tian Tian? Yes, one of the UK’s only two giant pandas, leased to Edinburgh zoo a decade ago by the Bifengxia breeding centre in Sichuan, China. The lease runs out in December, and Tian Tian has failed to give birth.

Why? Sometimes it just doesn’t happen. She had cubs in China, only to endure a number of failed pregnancies – some initiated by artificial insemination – in Edinburgh. Things went further downhill when her partner, Yang Guang, had his testicles removed, after a tumour was discovered.

God, that’s sad. Is it? Or is she just so happy that she has rejected sex as a concept?

There’s a moral here, isn’t there? Yes. It’s that it’s OK if personal contentment is more important to you than romantic love. And also that pandas are seemingly determined to make themselves extinct.

Do say: “Happy pandas don’t have sex.”

Don’t say: “Quick, someone invent Panda Instagram to make them all feel ugly and insecure.”

The GuardianTramp

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