The signs didn’t look good when Tian Tian started slapping Yang Guang in the face, admits Iain Valentine. The director of research and conservation at Edinburgh Zoo told the Sunday Times that the female panda was becoming frustrated with Yang’s poor technique. No surprise, really. Pandas are said to have a mere 36-hour window to mate each year, which doesn’t give much time to practice. The two bears had recently arrived at the Scottish zoo when Professor Tang Chunxiang determined that Tian Tian was ovulating. Valentine says six attempts were made at intercourse, but that Tian Tian wasn’t making it easy; “she kept rolling over and collapsing”. Nevertheless, the far-from-frantic efforts have caught the imagination of the public (the bears can be watched live online via a ‘Panda Cam’ and Scots have been calling into radio stations to request songs like Marvin Gaye’s Let’s Get it On). Sadly, by Wednesday evening, Tian Tian’s chances of motherhood had expired – for this year, at least. But Valentine hopes the younger male will have learned some lessons in love: “We’re hopeful the bears will have more success next year.”
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