After panda porn failed to spark amour, Thai zoo authorities turned Monday to artificial insemination in the hope of impregnating their lone female giant panda.
Authorities at the Chiang Mai Zoo in northern Thailand inseminated Lin Hui with semen from her cagemate, Chuang Chuang, on Monday morning and will repeat the procedure on Tuesday. The artificial insemination is a last-ditch effort to get Lin Hui pregnant, after videos of pandas having sex failed to entice Chuang Chuang into mating with his partner.
"He just didn't want to mate. He was looking at her as a friend," said Sophon Dummui, director general of Thai Zoo Organization of Thailand which oversees the Chiang Mai Zoo.
"We saw that Chuang Chuang wasn't mating with the female," he continued. "If we don't do artificial insemination, then maybe we couldn't have a baby this year. We think the artificial insemination is the best option."
Thailand rented 6-year-old Chuang Chuang and 5-year-old Lin Hui from China for $250,000 in October 2003 for 10 years. They are expected to generate millions of dollars in tourist revenue.
Since then, they have tried everything from putting Chuang Chuang on a special diet to holding a mock wedding before resorting to artificial insemination.
While the technique is being tried on pandas for the first time in Thailand, it has been used for more than 50 years in China to trigger a baby boom among the bear-like bamboo eaters. Thirty-four pandas were born by artificial insemination in 2006 in China and 30 survived — both record numbers for the endangered species. Artificial insemination has also been used at zoos in the United States.
The panda is one of the world's rarest animals, with about 1,590 living in the wild in China, mostly in Sichuan and Shaanxi provinces.
Giant pandas have a very low fertility rate because they are sexually inactive. Female pandas become pregnant only once a year and deliver two cubs at most each time.
The fertility of captive giant pandas is even lower, experts said.