A pair of giant pandas in captivity mated over the weekend. Yet, the hopes for a result, an even rarer panda offspring, is still too early to call, according to the French zoo.

According to the zoo, Huan Huan, a female panda on loan from China at the Beauval zoo in central France, was "placed in touch" with partner Yuan Zi eight times on Saturday.

Female pandas are only pregnant for 24 to 48 hours a year and give birth every two years in the wild.

Pandas in Captivity

(Photo : Mike Van Schoond)

In captivity, however, the small window of opportunity thwarts most efforts to reproduce. Male pandas either tend to lose confidence in the act or don't know how to behave due to a lack of practice.

An Unlikely Duo

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(Photo : Pixabay)
Panda is one of the most recognized symbols of conservation as these endearing animals have been pulled out from the brink of extinction. But conservation efforts for Panda also left other predator in the habitat: leopards, snow leopards, wolves and Asian wild dog population in dramatic decline over the years.

The Beauval pair, on the other hand, was "cooperative and very active" as they got closer, according to the zoo.

Yuan Zi was "more at ease with the approach and mating than previous years," while Huan Huan, who was in heat, was "very involved."

Even after several rounds of amorous sex, the pandas' keepers and veterinarians will not be holding their breath for a successful birth.

Hopeful Results

According to the zoo's chief vet, Baptiste Mulot, the team thought the result "was excellent" and praised the panda male, who "has made improvements" since last year. He said, "He has a better sense of what to do."

According to the zoo, the encounters' rhythm was created by the female's "high-pitched tones" and the male's "more husky" sounds, "which is natural and a positive sign."

However, for good measure, the team conducted artificial insemination during the night with the assistance of German experts who were flown in for the process, which included briefly anesthetizing the pandas.

Each fetus should be detected within two weeks, but even that isn't a guarantee of success, as pandas also have false pregnancies that don't result in an embryo.

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Panda Conservation

(Photo : Bruce Hong, Unsplash)
Pandas are innocently cute, but their innocence is too much that they don't actually know how mating works.

After artificial insemination, Huan Huan gave birth to Yuan Meng, the first panda conceived in France, in 2017.

Now around the same size as his mother, the young panda will be sent to China this year, where 500 pandas live in captivity and 2,000 in the wild.

Panda Breeding Facts

Owing to the low breeding success of captive pandas, they are often assumed to be terrible at breeding.

However, long-term experiments have shown that wild panda species can breed at rates similar to certain thriving American black bear populations.

Giant pandas are solitary bears with fairly defined natural habitats. Only during the mating season, which lasts from mid-February to mid-May, do they come together. Meghan Martin-Wintle, an applied ecologist and director of PDX Wildlife, a nonprofit restoration and research group based in Portland, Oregon, said, "Most females go into estrus mid-March to mid-April."

Difficult Conditions

According to Martin-Wintle, mating is difficult for giant pandas, in part because male giant pandas have one of the smallest penises in the animal world. A willing female must assume the lordosis pose, in which she lowers her front end, arches her back down, and lifts her tail end up, allowing the male to penetrate her vaginal cavity from behind, and she has to shove on to him until he gets the job.

Both male and female giant pandas bleat or let out a goat-like scream after orgasm. The male will then perform a "rollback," He sits on his buttocks and lower pelvic region and pushes the female towards him, holding on for as long as he can. The reason for the male's behavior is unclear.

After Mating

The male will stay around after mating and potentially mate with the female a few more times before she is no longer ovulating.

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