Despite promising signs, pandas at Tokyo’s Ueno Zoo fail to mate


Staff Writer

Love was, sadly, not in the air at Tokyo’s Ueno Zoo on Friday. The facility announced it will resume public viewing of one of its two giant pandas following a failed mating attempt.

The public viewing of Shin Shin, a female panda, and Ri Ri, a male, was halted Thursday in hope the two would conceive after hormonal analysis indicated Shin Shin was in heat.

The zoo said Ri Ri will be put back on view from 9:30 a.m. on Saturday. But Shin Shin is currently undergoing physical examination and is under anesthesia, so she will be available for viewing at a later date.

The 10-year-old pandas were given a choice to use two rooms to mate.

Giant pandas’ mating season usually lasts from February to May and they are fertile with a very short reproductive window of up to 72 hours.

Specialists at the zoo said the changes they had observed in the behavior of both of pandas raised hopes they would conceive.

They said Ri Ri showed strong sexual interest in Shin Shin, evinced by his active movements, his bleating at Shin Shin, and by scent-marking. Shin Shin also responded to Ri Ri’s bleats and dipped parts of her body into water.

But despite the signs of estrus, the two did not frequently exchange bleats or chirping sounds and did not copulate. The zoo concluded that Shin Shin’s signs of estrus were not as strong as those observed during the peak, and thus she was not ready to mate.

The zoo officials said they would be watching the pandas for further signs of an estrus cycle based on results from behavioral and psychological analysis, but were not considering artificial insemination in further attempts.

In 2012, Shin Shin, who was brought from China five years ago, gave birth to a cub that died from pneumonia about a week later. She also had a phantom pregnancy the following year. The pandas have not bred since.

  • Philosopher

    As delightful as the image of “sings of estrus” is I think the author meant signs.

    • At Times Mistaken

      Or maybe it’s supposed to be “songs” (as in the mood music mentioned by Charlie Sommers above).

      • Philosopher

        What would a panda estrus song sound like?

      • At Times Mistaken

        I believe it would sound pandamorous!

      • Philosopher

        It’d be panda-moan-ium.

  • Philosopher

    As delightful as the image of “sings of estrus” is I think the author meant signs.

  • KenjiAd

    I’ve heard that in China, zoo keepers are showing captive Pandas a video of other pandas engaging in sexual acts, in order to stimulate their sexual activities. I’m not kidding. I’m not sure how successful the method is, but if the two Pandas are not finding each other terribly attractive, this porn video method might be worth trying.

    • Charlie Sommers

      A chilled bottle of champagne and some seductive Barry White music might just do the trick.

  • Ahojanen

    Is it newsworthy? In the Wakayama zoo pandas have given birth without difficulty (and public attention).