Porn For Pandas


This blog entry about the events of Tuesday, August 31, 2004 was originally posted on September 06, 2004.

DAY 318:  When you look at a panda, chances are you don’t think of it as a “sexy beast.”  That sort of description goes to a sleek animal like a panther, not that I’ve ever had the urge to spoon a panther.  Pandas are, from what I gather of mass public opinion, considered to be “cute,” which according to Rough Guide, contributes to the fact that they have an unfair advantage over other animals on the endangered species list; it is their cuteness that people respond to that have launched worldwide awareness and conservation programs of the otherwise lazy animal.  If the dodo was an attractive animal, it might still be around today — although I doubt I’ve have the urge to spoon a dodo either.

Due to heavy deforestation of bamboo forests in the 1970s and 80s — bamboo is the vegetarian animals’ preferred food — pandas, 80% of which are found in the Sichuan province, almost died out from starvation.  Their numbers reduced over the years significantly, causing the remaining population to resort to inbreeding whenever a male got beyond third base on a date — but those offspring had birth defects and didn’t survive.  There are only about 1,000 great pandas today, but conservationists around the globe are doing their best to prevent extinction of the cute pandas — so cute that even the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) uses them for their logo.

One of the premier facilities for panda re-population lies in Chengdu:  the Chengdu Giant Panda Breeding Research Base, which was once featured on an episode of Globe Trekker with Justine Shapiro.  I might not have remembered to go there if not for Elisa’s (Xi’an) suggestion to go to Chengdu — if I had been turned onto it earlier I might have skipped out on seeing the pandas in the Beijing Zoo to see them in the more natural environment.  Allow me to quote the great Edwin Way Teale:  “Those who wish to pet wildlife love them, but those who respect their natures and wish to let them live natural lives, love them more.”  I’m not exactly sure who that guy is — I just saw his quote on a sign — but I’m sure he thought pandas were cute too.

No better place would I be able to see pandas than the Chengdu Panda Breeding Center (other than perhaps the wild Wolong Nature Reserve, farther west of the province), created around pandas’ natural environment, as opposed to the other way around.  Paddocks were created around the dwellings of pandas and, unlike the zoo, they were so big that unless pandas were eating at the feeding areas near a viewing platform at feeding time, they were often not seen, hiding in bushes somewhere. 

With me on this trip to the Breeding Center were my Dutch roommates Sybille and Meta, an older Irish woman named Ann and Dutch couple Alex and Kim, who I had kept bumping into since arriving in Xi’an.  Our driver picked us up early in the morning at seven to arrive at the center by the eight o’clock feeding time — going any later would reduce the chances of seeing a panda.  The driver got us there in time and turned to me to translate to the others for the pick-up time, thinking I spoke Chinese — we managed to get by with body language.

RECOGNIZED BY THE WORLD COMMUNITY, the Chengdu Giant Panda Breeding Center has successfully bred pandas — which is not so easy than one might think.  New, healthy pandas are born in a lengthy process, as I learned by watching a documentary film in the center’s Panda Theater.

Breeders first need to find a suitable male and then find a suitable female to start a successful pregnancy.  But finding a panda a date isn’t as easy as posting his/her information on  Scientists have paired a male and a female that they thought were suitable to each other and put them in a room together to get it on.  However, in one secretly-recorded segment of the film that looked like porn for pandas, the male first mounted the female from behind (doggie-style, or in this case, panda style).  The female refused his manly urges and moved away, probably turned off that he had no job, no money and no life prospects other than to sit around and eat bamboo all day.  The male, confused as to which way she might like it, tried to slam her against the wall to do her from behind (picture above).  This apparently was a turn off for the female because she shoved the male aside and knocked him over, and then started hitting him and growling, causing the not-so-studly male to run away and hide in the corner like a frightened squirrel.

I think if the scientist breeders were smart, they might have made the ambiance a little more romantic for the panda couple, perhaps with a little Luther Ingram (3.34 MB MP3 file) to set a sexy mood for a little panda foreplay.  No, instead the square old scientists just resorted to boring old scientific methods:  getting the pandas really drunk at a frat party to see if they end up hooking up.  No, no, I’m kidding — the square old scientists “simply” sedated the male and jerked him off to get some panda sperm for artificial insemination in the female.  I suppose the male panda might have been able to extract the sperm himself if there was a sufficient porn for him to watch in a little back room, but perhaps “Ling-Ling Does Dallas” was out at the video store.

Because by nature the female panda bear is round and cuddly like a, well, bear, it’s often hard to tell if she actually gets pregnant.  Breeders again resort the miracles of science — and wait the two minutes to see if the strip turns blue.  The female sometimes doesn’t know she’s pregnant — she just knows she had strange cravings for odd combinations of food in the middle of the night.  The breeders, in every attempt ensure a successful pregnancy, fulfill her demands so well that, according to the film, females that aren’t pregnant actually fake pregnancy to get more food.

New soon-to-be mother pandas don’t exactly know what to expect of giving birth; they aren’t exactly exposed to humans’ home videos of women in labor, clawing at their husbands at the hospital and yelling “PUT DOWN THAT VIDEO CAMERA DOWN YOU PRICK AND BREATHE WITH ME YOU ASSHOLE!  AAAAAAAAGGHHH!!!!!”  In the home video segment of a female panda giving birth in the documentary, it just sort of happened really fast with no pain at all.  A little baby panda shot out of the mother’s vagina like a cannon, as fast as a spurt of diarrhea.  The newborn didn’t look anything like a panda at all — more like a tiny rodent the size of an apple, all covered in slime — and in a way the whole birth looked like a scene from one of the Alien movies.  The infant panda, which was born not completely developed, was so foreign-looking to the new mother that she didn’t know what it was and just swatted it around the floor like a hockey puck, as it screamed and screeched in pain.  At this point the scientists ran in and grabbed the newborn before it was stepped on.

Survival of the baby is probably the hardest part of panda breeding; many don’t survive at all.  Babies are taken away from their mothers and put into an incubator, to be cared for by a human nurse that feeds it regularly and keeps it warm.  It is in the nursery that the baby is cared for until it starts to grow the black fur around the eyes, so that the mother may recognized it as one of her kin and cuddle it the way mothers do.

OUR VISIT TO THE CHENGDU GIANT PANDA BREEDING CENTER couldn’t have been timed out any more perfect, just six days after a baby panda had been born.  We headed immediately to the nursery to see the newborn, behind a glass in a sterile environment that put public Chinese hospitals to shame.  Inside an incubator carefully attended to by rotating nurses, the infant slept completely wrapped in a blanket until I asked the nurse if I could see more.  She opened one end of the blanket to show the panda’s tail — a tail that would shrink with body growth.

“Oh, it looks like a mouse,” Ann said in her Irish accent.  That’s not to say she wasn’t impressed like the rest of us, in awe of the little infant like the way most people react to newborns of any species.  We had our cameras pointed to the panda’s tail, hoping it’d come out, but it just sort of shook around without revealing itself.

The nurse unwrapped the blanket, showing us the whole body.  “Oh, it still looks like a mouse,” Ann reiterated.  The little panda’s back was turned to us, so we really couldn’t see the baby’s face.  We all had our cameras pointed for when it happened, but after ten minutes of inertia, everyone just gave up — except for me.  Five minutes later, with all the strength in its little mouse-like body, it leaned up and looked around for a brief couple of seconds and then went back to sleep.

The rest of the paddocks of the Breeding Center held the different groups of pandas by age, some on the ground, some in trees:  cubs, who sat around and ate bamboo; teens, who sat around and ate bamboo, and adults, who sat around and ate bamboo, sometimes in a manner similar to when Bugs Bunny eats a carrot.  The pandas never fought over food and often shared it, happy to be fed from the breeders in different poses and facial expressions:  snickering, laughing and hiding behind bamboo leaves.  The great pandas weren’t the only ones to be fed during feeding time; the Breeding Center also kept the giant panda’s little cousins, the raccoon-like red (or lesser) panda, equally cute as their big cousins.

BACK IN CHENGDU, I went out to get more Sichuan food, this time trying the smoked duck (a mild dish in Sichuan cuisine), and Gongbao Chicken, a really spicy dish with pieces of chicken, peanuts, ginger and many red hot Sichuan peppers cut into halves to be eaten.  The food inflamed my mouth and made my lips feel like they were burning and a couple of hours later I ran to one of the squat toilets at the hostel to expel it from my abdomen.  Much like giving birth like a new panda mother, my bowels shot out my excrement like a cannon — unlike a new panda mother, I didn’t exactly play with it on the floor like a hockey puck, not that the thought ever crossed my mind.  You couldn’t make me do it if you tried, not even if you played a little Luther Ingram.

Next entry: Chicken Styrofoam

Previous entry: Sichuan Style

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Comments for “Porn For Pandas”

  • Can I be first?  Great pic’s Erik….everyone loves a panda.  Hey Erik, do you ever come across a cemetary in these countries…I have a morbid fascination with different culture customs of burying people.  If you see one in your travels….post it for me please???

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  09/05  at  08:46 PM

  • ROSE:  Haven’t seen one other than the mausoleum of Mao…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  09/06  at  08:55 AM

  • New TGT accronym (P.P.S.) = Panda Prison Stlye !!!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  09/06  at  05:10 PM

  • So, I’m reading this entry to my husband, and at the part about the female panda hitting and growling at the male panda, he says ‘Oh, like you?’.  Speaking of swatting mates to the floor…  Geesh.

    Posted by Liz  on  09/06  at  05:19 PM

  • “Much like giving birth like a new panda mother, my bowels shot out my excrement like a cannon.” - Another instant classic!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  09/06  at  07:34 PM

  • That made me laugh out loud.  Just when you think the entry is all about cute pandas - bam!  he brings it back to reality with a toilet analogy.  That’s why I love the blog!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  09/06  at  08:10 PM

  • AWWWWWW!!!! those pandas are so cute! though the baby is weird looking. but i love its little tail. =)

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  09/06  at  09:43 PM

  • ling ling does dallas…lol

    everytime i take a b&w photo…ling ling..

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  09/06  at  09:43 PM

  • i am still hungry for chinese food!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  09/07  at  12:54 AM

  • Hilarious entry

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  09/08  at  01:18 AM

  • CHERYL - did you read it while playing the song??  it’s even better that way!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  09/08  at  01:34 AM

  • markyt, you’re right. it IS funnier if you read it while playing the song. LOL!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  09/08  at  05:04 PM

  • I laughed til I cried! GOOD ONE! I can’t wait to send this link to the twisted folks around the office… the cuddly panda will lure them and then whammo! panda prison sex!

    BTW, the red panda is my favorite! I love seeing that critter at the Bronx Zoo!

    Also, entry reminded me of a SA tortise entry back in the day!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  09/09  at  01:47 AM

  • Erik,

    i think you have been on the road too long if you are discussing and describing “Panda Lovin”!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  09/09  at  06:15 AM

  • The red panda looks like a raccoon.
    Love the panda pics - wonderful! I think that the panda that gave birth was the one from the SD zoo, but not sure.
    Awesome entry - it’s true, bringing it back to reality!!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  09/10  at  10:55 PM

  • “A little baby panda shot out of the mother’s vagina like a cannon, as fast as a spurt of diarrhea.”

    i LOVE that. lol.

    “she didn’t know what it was and just swatted it around the floor like a hockey puck, as it screamed and screeched in pain.”

    yeah, that was a HIGHLY entertaining read. GREAT entry!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  09/15  at  04:59 AM

  • ANIN:  Thanks!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  09/15  at  06:51 PM

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This blog post is one of over 500 travel dispatches from the trip blog, "The Global Trip 2004: Sixteen Months Around The World (Or Until Money Runs Out, Whichever Comes First)," originally hosted by It chronicled a trip around the world from October 2003 to March 2005, which encompassed travel through thirty-seven countries in North America, South America, Africa, Europe, and Asia. It was this blog that "started it all," where Erik evolved and honed his style of travel blogging — it starts to come into focus around the time he arrives in Africa.

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Next entry:
Chicken Styrofoam

Previous entry:
Sichuan Style


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