How Do Giant Pandas Find a Mate?


The process of giant pandas mating in the wild is quite different from that in captivity. While scientists find it difficult to strategically plan the breed of pandas, nature has its special way of getting it done.

When they are in the wild, male giant pandas face competition for a single female. Naturally, your question may be, how do giant pandas find a mate?

Giant pandas, being solitary mammals, usually don’t face high competition while attracting their mate. In a group, hardly 2-5 males compete for one female. The largest male ultimately wins the competition after aggressively pushing the other males and roaring. He uses bleating mating calls and scent-marking techniques to attract the female for mating.

The above is just a typical process of giant pandas mating in the wild. These activities happen during the spring season every year, from March to mid of May.

However, the process gets complicated as the female pandas only get an Estrous Cycle gateway of 3-7 days in a year. That being said, are you curious how often do giant pandas mate?

Let’s find out more in the next topics!

How Often do Pandas Mate?

Female giant pandas go into heat during mid-March, initiating the mating season and competition. The Estrous Cycle of female pandas generally lasts between 3-7 days a year.

Considering the short span they get for mating each year, a female is likely to mate with multiple competing males. At the same time, male pandas seek different female partners who are in heat.

The giant panda mating process can last for about 30 seconds to 5-minutes. A female and male panda is likely to mate for 2-4 days only. The male panda stays with his mate as long as she ovulates. Once the female panda’s Estrus Cycle is over, the male moves on in search of a new mate. 

However, the breeding scenario of pandas in captivity is somewhat different. Even in captivity, the giant pandas prefer to mate with a partner chosen with mating calls and scent exchange. Researchers observed a higher breeding rate among pandas that get paired according to their preference.

Do Pandas Have One Mate for Life?

A female giant panda sitting on a tree

No. Giant pandas mate with more than one partner during their mating season.

Giant pandas are strictly loners or unsocial animals who cross their home range only during mating. A female panda sticks to her home range, hanging from a tree, while males compete over her by pushing each other and growling over the ground. 

The contenders fight until the victor proves his dominance and the female climbs down the tree for mating.

The male will mate with the female for 2-4 days and leave searching for another ovulating female once the current female stops ovulating. Researchers have observed a pattern among female pandas in selecting a mate. They prefer the dominant male among the ones competing over her. 

Why are Pandas So Bad at Mating?

After careful studies, researchers have confirmed that giant pandas rarely mate, be it in the wild or in captivity. There are 3 main reasons behind such a lack of breeding.

Reason 1: Male Pandas are Lousy

a group of giant pandas eating bamboo lazily in their enclosure

One of the biggest problems with giant pandas mating is the lousiness of the male pandas. On the one hand, there is a lack of understanding of the female panda’s desires and, on the other, their physical disabilities. 

Male giant pandas have relatively smaller-sized male organs as compared to their body size. It is because of this that a willing female needs to create a proper position for the male to enter her, and then she needs to do the shoving in order to copulate. 

While female pandas prefer mating with a male that fights for her or makes advances, male pandas seem to lack the knowledge of their next step if they come across a willing female. Misreading a female panda’s signals for willingness to mating is yet another common challenge for the male pandas.

Furthermore, male pandas are usually quick with their intercourse as they are solely focused on getting the female pregnant and less about the pleasure.

Reason 2: The Pickiness of Female Pandas and Captivity

By nature, the female pandas are choosy about their mate. They typically agree with the dominant male from the group of males who compete over her. The females also prefer the males to approach them for intercourse. 

However, in captivity or in the wild, such expectations of the females are not easily met. If the male approaches a female panda for mating with her will, they might end up getting bitten. The situation gets worse when they are in captivity.

Nearly 150 pandas, of the global count of 1864 pandas, stay in captivity, limiting the choice of males for females. The pickiness of female giant pandas often poses a barrier to their mating cycle, as pandas barely get to compete for a female in captivity. In fact, the male pandas also fail to prove their worth to the females because of the lack of competition. 

Reason 3: Deforestation

It might sound exaggerated, but deforestation or the destruction of the natural panda habitat plays an important role in giant panda mating. Panda researchers say that deforestation has confined the pandas to isolated locations around bamboo groves on mountain slopes. The confinement of panda communities forces them to inbreed, thus destroying their natural reproductive abilities. 

Deforestation also leads to restricting pandas in a zone with a shortage of food. As a natural instinct of survival, pandas have grown reluctant to mate frequently to avoid the scarcity of food or competition over food in the wild. 

Panda Mating Cycle

Female giant pandas only get one mating cycle or Estrous Cycle in a year, between mid-March to mid-May. Pandas become reproductively mature around when they are 7-8 years and remain active until 20-years. However, female giant pandas are likely to mate and reproduce once every 2-years. Even in this small span, the female pandas have the capability of mating for only 24-36 hours.

However, this mating cycle may change if a female loses a cub before it becomes 6-months old. In case a cub dies, a female is likely to reproduce the following year again.

Conclusion

Pandas being loners, only mate once a year between mid-March to mid-May, every year. They mate in the wild after acceptance of vocal cues and scent marking. 4-5 male pandas will compete over a single female, and after some grunting and pushing, the victor gets his chance with the female.

However, the pickiness of female pandas is limiting the choice of males for mating. Deforestation also plays a role in dampening the natural breeding trend of pandas. As a result, pandas are becoming endangered bear species on the earth. Naturally, experts remain highly concerned about their low breeding rate in both the wild, as well as captivity. 

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