Computerized Matchmaking For Animals: Chinese Pandas Take The Lead

Pandas are solitary creatures and so very reclusive that it has always been difficult for scientists to study their reproductive habits. Understanding and facilitating captive panda breeding has always been a challenge for Chinese zookeepers. Giant pandas have one very brief breeding season per year, with only a day or two of actual mating. A suitable male and female must be paired at precisely the right time (no headaches, etc).


Once a panda is conceived, new problems arise. Many young pandas die soon after birth. Newborn cubs weigh 3 to 5 ounces (85 to 142 grams)—just 1/900 of their mother's weight and they are susceptible to pneumonia and other ailments. They are also totally dependent upon their mothers, which are often inexperienced as parents.

The panda videos are meant to be instructional and from that idea, which has done so well in China, something else has evolved that is hoped to be even more efficient. In the same manner as digital dating services pair up people with like needs and wants, “studbooks” are created to match most animals held in captivity. The databases contain information on sex, age and weight, but leave out of the mating equation personal preferences like cozy fires, pina coladas and long walks along the beach . More than 200 zoos worldwide are using this new software.

While there’s no candlelight or soft music being played in the back rooms of Chinese zoos, keepers are always coming up with different tricks to get pandas and other animals in the mood, so to speak. Bob Wiese, director of collections for the Zoological Society of San Diego said:

“There are some frogs that you have to simulate rain for or they won’t come out and breed. Other frogs, they just need to hear the sound of rain and the sound of lightening and thunder. That’s what sets off their hormones.”

Since the 1980s the databases have been available in paperback form, but today’s studbooks have been computerized. Basic information such as family trees, medical history, age and weight are entered by “studbook keepers”, then sent to a central location where the data is analyzed and converted into a “master plan” for breeding.

Since pornographer, Larry Flynt isn’t available everywhere, perhaps he really does need a one-way ticket to the zoos in China?

What do YOU think?