Revealed - how 'sexercise' and trickery are helping to save the Giant Panda

In a new BBC film, Sir David Attenborough explains the unusual steps Chinese scientists are taking to help a sex-shy icon of conservation to avoid extinction

Online PR News – 02-December-2010 – – British television viewers are about to get unprecedented insight into how Chinese scientists are using ‘sexercise’ classes, Viagra and a baby swapping trick to save the animal which next year clocks-up 50 years as a global icon of conservation.

For PANDA MAKERS (showing on BBC2 at 8pm on Tuesday 7 December and narrated by Sir David Attenborough), the UK crew became the first from the West to be granted full behind-the-scenes access to the Giant Panda breeding centre in Chengdu, China – HQ of the world’s most costly and controversial wildlife rescue project.

There, the team spent two years filming the centre’s efforts to build up the world population of captive pandas to the ‘magic’ number of 300, the point at which it is felt reintroductions to the wild become feasible.

Scenes include how sex-shy captive Giant Pandas are encouraged to mate through stamina work-outs, scent sniffs, and the trick Chinese scientists have developed to make sure more twins survive – by swapping the babies around up to 10 times a day to give each an equal share of its mother’s milk and attention.

Filming coincided with China reaching its target of raising 300 panda babies – a population considered big and diverse enough for the breeding project to move to its next stage: reintroducing captive-bred pandas into the wild.

Writer/producer Sorrel Downer says: “Some people question if what is happening at Chengdu is a worthwhile use of conservation money but as Sir David Attenborough says in the film the project is a triumph of science and skill. It is a fact that by inspiring the logo adopted in 1961 by WWF, the Giant Panda has become a global symbol of what we’ve damaged, and what we want to save, and perhaps a reminder that we’re honour-bound to return what we shouldn’t have taken away.”

The latest estimates are that wild panda numbers have fallen below 2,500 and that another 50% of their already restricted range has been lost in the past 20 years.

PANDA MAKERS is an AGB Films Ltd production for the BBC series NATURAL WORLD. The film was produced and scripted by Sorrel Downer and directed by Andrew Graham Brown. The series producer is Steve Greenwood of the BBC Natural History Unit.