This is a post from over the summer that I thought was pretty appropos because of the birth of a new panda at Zoo Atlanta a few months ago. Jack Black was on Good Morning America last week with the cute little bugger.
This was my last weekend in China, and we were able to go do something that I've wanted to do since I first arrived eight months ago - visit a Giant Panda reserve in the western part of the country.
So, off we flew 1,800 km to Chengdu, the gateway to Tibet and the home of one of the largest panda breeding and research centers in the world.
And, while visiting this amazing place, I discovered that female pandas and infertiles have something in common - difficulty getting pregnant.
Pandas in the wild only number 1,600, which is why there is such an emphasis at this center and others to determine good ways to help them procreate. When there is such a small number in the wild, your number of mates is less than desirable, too.
Not only that, but they only have sex about once a year. And, to make matters worse, a panda's anatomy doesn't help either. According to the Giant Panda Museum, a male panda has a rather small penis and the female has a long vagina. (No, I'm not kidding. This was actually written in English on one of the signs in the museum. Thank goodness there wasn't an accompanying diagram.) So, conception the old-fashioned way is a bit difficult.
Researchers have become expert semen collectors (and no, I don't want to know how) and use artificial insemination to get the females pregnant using a "frozen straw" method, sounds appealing, no?
And, even by using the medical intervention, the chances of conception are relatively low, though when they do, 45% result in twins. Oh, and the researchers use the panda's urine to do a pregnancy test, just like us, (though I doubt that they can take a HPT by themselves and they probably don't obsess looking for a faint light for 30 minutes after the 3 minutes is up, either.)
So, we infertiles can share our misery with the darling black and white gentle bears.
Those babies are worth it, too.