Pornography is a human invention but there are animals who are not adverse to a little voyeurism: California sea lions are an example. They are stimulated by the sight of other sea lions having sex and given the opportunity will engage in the act after watching it.
Older males have a ‘harem’ of females who can be quite demanding. The Old Man is expected to satisfy all of their sexual needs, one at a time. They copulate for about an hour, floating just below the surface of the water and once they are done, the male hurries ashore for his next date.
Younger males watch the alpha males copulate with their females but usually can’t participate, as the older males jealously guard their females. So for the younger male, voyeurism is his only way of receiving sexual satisfaction.
Indeed, it is thought that for many vertebrate animals voyerism is ‘instructional’, especially for the males. But if animals such as these are raised in captivity, without the benefit of instruction from elders, how far will their instincts take them?
In some cases not far enough. Breeding pandas in captivity has been historically difficult, so in recent years some conservationists have taken novel measures to help the animals along.
In Thailand's Chiang Mai Zoo, two pandas, Chuang Chuang and Lin Hui, resided quite happily (and abstinately) for four years.The pair were sent from China in the hope that the comfortable climate at the Thai zoo would be enough to set off a few sparks between the two. Zoo officials waited anxiously for the pair to warm up to each other and start a family. Finally, a first faltering, attempt was made by the couple but unfortunatly, it failed to produce offspring. The pandas, apparently having satisfied their curiousity, remained ‘friends’ and did not stike up a romantic relationship again.
Zookeepers decided that the platonic relationship needed a bit of help so they formulated a unique plan: Chuang Chuang, the six-year-old male, viewed films of other mating pandas when researchers thought he was most relaxed and receptive.
Unfortunately, panda porn didn’t work for Chuang Chuang who seems to want to keep his relationship with Lin Hui strictly platonic. And Lin Hui seemed to be daunted by the prospect since Chuang Chuang has gained some love handles. So zookeepers put Chuang Chuang on a strict diet, hoping that his new physique would turn Lin Hui’s head, but to no avail. Last month, scientists resorted to artificial insemination.
The end result? The pornography wasn’t a success, perhaps they're just not each other’s type. But maybe the miracles of modern technology will help the quest for a baby. Only time will tell.
Chiang Mai Zoo
National Geographic News