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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

The Living on Earth Almanac

Air Date: Week of

This week, facts about the mating habits of giant pandas in captivity.


CURWOOD: It's Living on Earth. I'm Steve Curwood

(Panda calls)

CURWOOD: No, that's not an old Dodge Dart trying to get started on a cold winter morning. It's the sound of pandas mating, or at least trying to mate.

(Chinese flute music)

CURWOOD: Hsing Hsing, the giant panda given to the United States by China to mark the 1972 visit of President Richard Nixon, recently died without leaving any offspring. He and his partner, Ling Ling, lived at the National Zoo in Washington, but the pair never produced any viable cubs. Getting giant pandas to reproduce in captivity, zoo officials found, is harder than they figured.

The first time they tried, Hsing Hsing wasn't sure what to do. Frustrated, Ling Ling slapped him across the head. Later, another male panda was brought in but the animals fought and Ling Ling was mauled. Eventually, Ling Ling did give birth to five cubs, but none lived longer than a few days. Recently, though, things are looking up. Three months ago a cub was born to Bai Yun and Shi Shi at the San Diego Zoo, and has survived the longest of any giant panda born in the U.S. Last week zookeepers named her Hua Mei, which can be translated as "China-U.S.A." And for this week that's the Living on Earth Almanac.



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