NYT by the Editorial Board: The Obsession With Panda Sex
Marlene Breverman stashed this in Panda Love
Stashed in: Pandas!
"It is really no mystery why the giant panda’s puritanical sex life attracts lots of attention. The bear is amazingly cute, its numbers are perilously low, and it’s fun to read (and write) about the extraordinary efforts of zookeepers and scientists to fan the creatures’ passions in the inexplicably tiny annual window of opportunity — one to three days — that nature has allotted for generative panda lovemaking. Among the tricks resourceful humans have tried, according to a recent report in The Times, is “panda porn” — videos of pandas making love that male pandas watch in the privacy of their cages.
Encouraging pandas to produce more pandas seems eminently commendable. They are enormously popular in zoos, and any beast whose habitat, and therefore survival, is being wiped out by Homo sapiens deserves help. Yet the huge investment of time, money and science on pandas in China, where all wild pandas live, and in Western zoos, which pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to China to lease the bears, does raise questions. Does the panda’s indisputable charm entitle it to so much more attention and sexual encouragement than a vast majority of the world’s threatened wildlife?
The giant panda is the quintessential “charismatic megafauna,” the term for animals human beings perceive as particularly appealing or majestic — think elephants, bald eagles, dolphins, polar bears and Cecil, the lion killed last year by an American dentist. No one questions why the lion is king in “The Lion King” while the unlovely hyena is a villain, or why the panda is the symbol of the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) while the proboscis monkey, which is endangered, will never make it onto anyone’s list of charismatic megafauna.
To the Ugly Animal Preservation Society, a British touring comedy act that seeks to draw attention to “some of Mother Nature’s more aesthetically challenged children,” this is utterly unfair. “The panda gets too much attention,” the society proclaims on its website, and animals like the three-toed sloth or the naked mole rat deserve just as much notice.
Environmentalists will counter that focusing attention on iconic animals is a good way to draw awareness to broader environmental and ecological issues. Certainly nature needs all the help it can get as habitats shrink and climates change, and if Tian Tian, Mei Xiang, Bei Bei or Bao Bao, the giant pandas at Washington’s National Zoo, can bring that message home, good. In the meantime, it would be better if their ability to survive for thousands of years on so little sex remained a mystery."
I agree with the environmentalists: Perhaps the panda can bring attention to other animals too?