Pandas are the District’s special animal. Like all D.C. celebrities, they come from somewhere else accompanied by great fanfare, stay for a brief time and then vanish whence they came. In the interval, they are surrounded by paparazzi and tourists snapping pictures of them in their sensible black-and-white ensembles.
But unlike most D.C. stars, they seem to have no understanding of the facts of life. To say they lack interest in continuing the species would be an understatement. When a panda invites you upstairs to see his etchings, he really wants to show you his etchings.
In nature, unlike the dating wilds, the cuter you are, the more difficult it is for you to reproduce. Bulldogs only happen via C-section. And pandas? Good luck with that!
They have the understanding of the facts of life that you have if your school adheres to a very strict abstinence-only policy. Very, very strict. Except that in humans such policies still seem to result in babies. Not so with pandas. They conduct themselves with a probity Rick Santorum would envy. They oppose both pre-marital and post-marital sex. Their idea of “doing it” is sitting there eating bamboo and trying to flag down passing storks.
Pandas simply cannot be bothered. Keepers have even produced erotic videos in order to stimulate the reproductive urge in these creatures. It has had little effect, other than to prevent the zookeepers from venturing out in public lest they be recognized. I am not a proponent of bestiality, but if you never want to worry about your children’s honor, encourage them to date pandas.
Not that nature made it easy. “Female pandas can only breed,” notes the National Zoo’s Twitter feed, “during a short 24-72 hour window each year.” Monday was D.C. panda Mei Xiang’s eighth annual artificial insemination.
So thank heavens they’re cute. Perhaps that is their most adaptive feature. Like lawn grass and bulldogs, unlike passenger pigeons and vast swaths of rainforest, they hit the lottery when we took over the planet.
If they weren’t cute, zookeepers would not be putting this amount of effort into artificially inseminating poor put-upon Mei. If these were longjawed mudsuckers, we would not be sitting at our desks chanting, “Be motile! Be motile!” to the, er, panda samples.
Of course, this is foolishness. If we let nature take its course, they’d be extinct already.
But they’re just so darn cute.