The National Zoo yesterday gave up hope that Ling-Ling, the Chinese panda, will become a mother this year, despite earlier hopes that a virile panda from the zoo at London would impregnate her.
Dr. Theodore Reed, zoo director took it philosophically.
"The plans of mice, men and pandas aft gang agley."
The London male arrived in Washington to try his luck at wooing, since his mate in London was recovering from illness and he was not needed there. Very unfortunately, the Washington female came into estrus more than a month earlier than usual.
"Who can say why she upset her schedule of six years?" said Reed. "Maybe it was the comparatively mild winter. Maybe the two males [the zoo's own male panda, Hsing-Hsing, was in adjoining quarters] stimulated her to an earlier season than usual. We do not know what triggers the hormonal response in pandas, and we don't know very much about it in bears, for that matter."
Or people, for that matter, he might have added.
If Ling-Ling's mating season had come later, perhaps she and Chia-Chia, the Londoner, would have had time to become friends instead of strangers. Chia-Chia roughed her up considerably when put together with her earlier this week. It was merely part of the male panda's dominance behavior, but it evidently cowed Ling-Ling, who was sore from bites and abrasions for two days afterward.
Yesterday she was proclaimed out of season.
"If I tell you she is 100-percent guaranteed out of season," said Reed, "she'd certainly read it and say, 'I'll show him,' and come in season again and breed with Hsing-Hsing. But she is no longer in season.
"Chia-Chia will be sent back to London in a couple of weeks," Reed said, taking the view there's always next year.
Well. As in so many other cases, the female rejected the male. Big deal. She flat didn't like him none. And to be fair to her, she had some reason not to warm up to him. He wasn't hardly no gentleman at all and he beat her up. But he done the best he could.