Rarely, if ever, have the sexual proclivities of a single individual so unabashedly worried the world as those of Chia-Chia, the male giant panda now visiting Washington's Ling-Ling at the National Zoo.
While millions eagerly await the least sign that he is interested in siring offspring, an international Save the Panda campaign has opened a $1 million fund-rising drive to give similar sexual encouragement to his relatives back home in China.
The People's Republic of China will provide the rest of the $4.5 million the Chinese expect to spend on a research and conservation center in the Wolong Natural Reserve, the pandas' high-altitude, mountainous home turf in Sichuan province. Fewer than 1,000 of the bearlike creatures are thought to exist there, but the five-continent fund-raising effort will try to get researchers close to as many of them as possible.
The World Wildlife Fund, announcing the project here, said its contribution will involve a panda-tracking program to collar the bearlike creatures with radio transmitters to find out where they go and how long they stay, especially how long and where they stay together. The pandas have only bred successfully in China so far, and researchers, like sex therapists the world over, want to make togetherness elsewhere as comfortable for their subjects as possible.