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Bear Hugs and Kisses

Despite foreplay, pandas keep relationship purely platonic.

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Sex complicates everything ... especially if you're a panda: Your intended mate ovulates once a year, and you can't quite figure out where everything is supposed to go.

Despite zoo keepers' best efforts, Memphis Zoo pandas Ya Ya and Le Le decided that theirs was a love better left unconsummated, that, in the long run, they'd be better off as friends.

Last week, the zoo closed the panda exhibit as 6-year-old Ya Ya was deemed ready to ovulate since her urine contained high levels of hormones. The notoriously reclusive pandas were placed together, separated by a thin piece of wire mesh. Mammals curator Matt Thompson said that Le Le, the 8-year-old male, started rubbing his scent all over the mesh. He even began doing handstands to try and impress his intended.

With the zoo's panda cam off-line, the Flyer tried to imagine the scene:

Le Le: So, er, come here often?

Ya Ya: Seriously? That's the line you're going to use? I only ovulate once a year.

Le Le: [trying again] You know, Ya Ya, we're both old enough now. No one else is around. I do a mean handstand. What do you think?

Ya Ya: I don't know. I've never done it on camera before [gesturing to the panda cam]. I might be shy.

Le Le: For God's sake, Ya Ya. Here we are. You got me into your habitat. Your hormone levels are right. You're peeing on command. Now you start opening up your personal life to me and tell me the visitors won't be back for hours.

Ya Ya: [seductively throwing her head back] So?

Le Le: Ya Ya, you're trying to seduce me.

Ya Ya: [laughs indignantly] Le Le, I am not trying to seduce you.

Le Le: Aren't you?

Ya Ya: Would you like me to seduce you?

[Excited zoo staff lift the mesh. But Le Le has performance anxiety.]

Le Le: Ya Ya, I'm sorry, I know we're on a time schedule, but I don't think I can do this.

Ya Ya: You what?

Le Le: This is all terribly wrong.

Ya Ya: Le Le, do you find me undesirable?

Le Le: Oh, no, Ya Ya. I think you're the most attractive of all the pandas I know. I mean that.

Ya Ya: Le Le, I want you to know that I'm available to you. But if you don't think you can do this, maybe we'd be better off as friends.

[Le Le tries once again but can't seem to figure it out. Ya Ya says it would be better for him to go. Zoo staff then step in and anesthetise Le Le to take semen for Ya Ya's insemination. The zoo will not know for several months if Ya Ya is pregnant.]

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