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Monday, 25 November, 2002, 10:34 GMT
Software aims to turn pandas on
Two pandas, AP
Pandas need encouragement to get frisky
Computer software could help endangered pandas in China find their ideal mate.

It has been developed by scientists in an attempt to boost the birth rate of pandas in zoos.

The program analyses the health and bloodlines of pandas in captivity to find the best match, reports the Beijing Star Daily.

The country protects hundreds of the bears in zoos, but it has proven difficult to tempt them to mate.

Low sex drive

China is spending millions on research into speeding up the birth rate of giant pandas in captivity, so that they can one day be released into the wild.

Baby panda in tree, AP
Few baby pandas born in captivity
Scientists estimate the number of pandas in the wild has dropped by half in the last two decades. A survey in April found about 1,000 in the mountains in the west of the country.

Pandas have relatively low fertility rates. In the wild, female pandas usually give birth to a single cub only once every two to three years.

But they lose virtually all interest in sex once they are in captivity. More than 60% of male pandas in zoos or sanctuaries exhibit no sexual desire at all.

Thus the vast majority of panda births in captivity are the result of artificial insemination.

Since the first artificially conceived cub in 1963, 210 have been born in China and 20 overseas. But only about half have survived to adulthood.

Panda porn

Using software to match up pandas with their perfect romantic mate is just one of the ways China is trying to encourage the animals to get frisky.

Chinese panda breeding programmes have struggled for years to help the endangered species.

They have used everything from what has been dubbed "panda porn" - explicit video of pandas mating - to traditional herbs.

Scientists have even experimented with the anti-impotence drug Viagra but with little success.

See also:

27 Jun 02 | Asia-Pacific
23 May 02 | Media reports
19 May 02 | Asia-Pacific
22 Jun 99 | Science/Nature
14 May 02 | Asia-Pacific
16 Feb 01 | Science/Nature
09 Sep 02 | Asia-Pacific
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