Friday, 9 August 2013
In Sympathy with Tian Tian.
Portrait of Bundles of Panda Joy by National Geographic
I have to stop reading the news. It's all getting too much, emotionally, when one had barely recovered from the tension and excitement of that Other Birth.
Now I learn that Tian Tian, the Giant Panda up there in Edinburgh (rented out from the Chinese Government), may be pregnant.
She is moody, off her food, and won't cooperate about having a scan.
Well, fair enough.
Many of us will be able to recall the nausea, the tiredness, the mood swings, but few of us will have had to face the indignities suffered by Tian Tian.
Public artificial insemination by different donors, endless speculation about our partner's abilities, doubts about our own capabilities. People are already questioning her mothering skills, and foster parents are lined up before pregnancy is confirmed.And if she does give birth her offspring will belong to the People's Republic of China and will be returned there at the age of two.
I wouldn't co-operate either.
But there is huge money in panda production.
If Giant Pandas find it so uncongenial to reproduce that they can't or won't, perhaps we should try to see things from their viewpoint?
Are they telling us that they don't want to be in zoos? Could it be as simple as that?
Do they reproduce when left well alone, free-range in their bamboo forests?
Or are they telling us that they have had enough of the whole business, and if people want pandas they are going to have to engineer them for themselves?
A friend who has recently visited captive baby pandas in China tells me that in order to obtain the necessary ingredients for artificial insemination the panda keepers have to fire up the prospective fathers by showing them Panda Porn, because male pandas basically can't be bothered.
Tian Tian and her partner, Yang Guang have been together for two years and had two attempts at mating, but their hearts were not in it. They obviously just don't care, either for each other or for the whole idea of sex and parenthood. And looking at the outcome of a panda pregnancy in the first few weeks - would you?
Admittedly the birth may be comparatively easy - Tian Tian might not even notice, but an new-born panda does not tug at the heart strings in the way that some other tiny animals may.
Infant pandas, as opposed to new-borns, are the toy-makers' dream, cuteness personified, but they clearly do not create the same sort of enthusiasms in their parents.
Why is it all so unattractive for them?
Surely pandas are trying to tell us something?
Meanwhile, back at the zoo, one of the pandas' keepers feels that, 'it's all just going to explode'.
Poor Tian Tian.