Scientists Say Pandas Need To Be In Love To Have Babies

Dec 17, 2015 11:10 AM EST | By Maria Leonila Masculino

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Pandas are not only so adorable, they believe in true love, too.

Reuters reports the secret key to saving the dwindling panda population is just exactly what most humans need to procreate: real romance.

A study published in the journal Nature Communications observed the captive breeding of pandas in a conservation and research center in Sichuan Province, China. According to scientists, pandas that showed preference for each other are far more likely to produce cubs than those who exhibited no preference at all.

"Incorporating mate choice into conservation breeding programs could make a huge difference for the success of many endangered species breeding programs, increasing cost-effectiveness and overall success," said Meghan Martin-Wintle, conservation biologist at the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research.

For the study, scientists observed 40 pandas in large open-air enclosures where they are free to choose their potential mate. They found out that pairs who showed mutual preference had 80% chance of producing a cub, while one-sided preference between a female and a male only had 50%.

Those who didn't show any preference to their mates had zero chance in conceiving.

Pandas show interest to their potential mates by vocalizing "chirps" and "bleats," and "scent-marking." The females would expose their angiogenital region, raise their tails, and walk backwards to the males. On the other hand, the males would impress the females by performing a handstand stunt against a vertical surface and urinate.

"We learned that, just as in humans, breeding signals are complicated," Martin-Wintle added.

According to the World Wildlife Fund, there are only less than 2,000 panda bears existing outside conservation units and zoos. To preserve their species, researchers suggest that zookeepers must make sure these black and white bears reproduce successfully.

"The pay-off will be higher reproductive rates and more baby pandas," said San Diego Zoo's Ronald Swaisgood, co-author of the study. "When a zoo is struggling to get its pandas to breed, it might be possible to switch out one of the pairs to see if a behaviorally compatible pair can be found."

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