While we're on the subject of animal life, I was struck by this story
about the artificial insemination of a giant panda in Thailand. Other bloggers have understandably fixated on the "panda porn" mentioned in the article. That just doesn't seem right.
But what seems even less
right to me is...everything else about this
. Here's the gist:
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.
They just want to be friends, zookeepers! True love waits, y'all!
But seriously, I guess it just hit me today -- partly because it would have to hit me while I was reading about humans teaming up to impregnate a wild animal, and that's not something I do with much frequency -- that this strategy isn't very progressive vis a vis the rights of female pandas. Sure, maybe Lin Hui is ticked off. Maybe she's been on Chuang Chuang for a while about starting a family, and he's always been, "Not now, cupcake; I told you, when we get out of this zoo -- when you and I can both get jobs, and finally see what it means to be living."* And maybe she's been trying to communicate with the zookeepers, trying to say, in her adorable giant-panda way, "Make with the turkey baster, I need some pups."
But for all we know, Lin Hui is perfectly happy with the way things are. Maybe she's afraid of giving birth. Maybe she just doesn't want to be weighed down by the demands of a kid.
Sure, you say, but shouldn't she have to take one for the endangered team? There is that, but cash is clearly a motivating factor here as well:
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.
And it seems the panda porn was only the most recent (and least bizarre, if you can believe it) in a series of magic-moment-inducing schemes:
...(the zoo has) tried everything from putting Chuang Chuang on a special diet to holding a mock wedding before resorting to artificial insemination.
A mock wedding? Are male pandas turned on by the thought of lifelong commitment? Would they not understand why According to Jim
is funny? That's chilling.
The problem, as ever, lies in the nature of the beast:
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.
So, while I understand that giant pandas are cute, not to mention lucrative, isn't it possible that a group not interested in getting it on should
fade away? Well, it's not that easy, of course. It's mostly pandas in captivity that have trouble revving their engines. (Luckily, I don't think humans will ever have this problem, should they be forced to propagate in monitored captivity -- at least judging by the behavior of reality-show participants.) And it's human settlement that has caused most of the decline
in the panda population.
"The only hope for the future of the panda is to balance the needs of humans and the needs of the panda," says Elizabeth Kemf of the World Wildlife Fund.
OK, so we're largely responsible for the current state of things. I suppose this means the differing solutions would break people into two camps. Think of the pandas as Iraq in 2003. (Stay with me here.) On the one hand, some argued that the U.S. was once complicit in Hussein's crimes
, giving it little moral ground to stand on when justifying an invasion. Others argued (links can be found easily enough, but I'm too bleary from writing this post to find the good ones right now -- this was supposed to be a quick panda joke, for god's sake) that such complicity would only impose a greater
obligation on the U.S. to act against the then-current regime. I'm not saying this to start a political debate, about species preservation or
Iraq. I'm only saying this in the hopes that some of you are under the influence of marijuana right now, because I think it will really blow your mind.
This is all leaving aside the first issue mentioned above. One has to assume that this porn takes the form of an extra reel of footage from the Discovery Channel archives. The alternative -- that behind a beaded curtain somewhere is something like Panda's Labyrinth
-- is just too weird to contemplate.
*"Fast Car" by Tracy Chapman, copyright 1988