16 September 2009

a very fascinating read (for more than just this excerpt!)

from bonk by the always entertaining mary roach:

"Perhaps the only locality where Viagra has proved a disappointment is the Wolong Nature Reserve in Sichuan Province. Wolong is home to part of China's dwindling panda population, as well as a group of captive pandas in a breeding research facility. Pandas have trouble reproducing in captivity. Some researchers describe it as a libido issue; some 60 percent of captive pandas show no interest in mating. Others seem to think that the males have erectile deficiencies, for in 2002, a middle-aged panda named Zhuang Zhuang was dosed with Viagra. 'No result on him at all,' the BBC quoted Wolong deputy director Wang Pengyan as saying.

Wolong researcher Guo Feng, also quoted in the BBC piece, took issue with his colleague. 'You can't say Viagra has no results on pandas. That panda basically has no capability. In the last few years, we've given Zhuang Zhuang many chances but he simply can't do it.'

It was unfair to single out Zhuang Zhuang, for male pandas in general are bumbling lovers. 'The male giant pandas do not know where to put it,' a zoologist named Chen is quoted as saying in Inside China Today. 'Sometimes they climb on the females' heads and start pushing.' Seeking to enlighten clueless male pandas, Wolong staff set about making an instructional video, which the media gleefully dubbed 'panda porn.' The BBC even referred to the footage as 'explicit,' though given the animal's thick fur and diminutive penis*--erect, about as big as a man's thumb--it's hard to imagine that the pandas were able to glean much detail from the tapes. Likely more of a This End Up sort of deal. The staff tersely reported 'improvement.'

*A fact that has spread well beyond the confines of panda reserves. The Urban Dictionary includes an entry for 'panda penis' (meaning a small one) submitted by a contributer named Lew. Lew's usage example reads: 'That girl said Matthew Reed had a panda penis.' It is Urban Dictionary policy to reject definitions that include the full names of non-celebrities, leading one to assume that the panda slur was directed at some sports or entertainment figured named Matthew Reed, and not Matthew Reed the wedding photographer, or Matthew Reed the assistant professors with the research interest in the interaction of quinoid compounds with cellular macromolecules, or any of the thousands of other 'Matthew Reeds' on Google."

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