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'Aww' or 'Eww'? Zoo tweets panda insemination

  • No detail spared in zoo's sometimes-graphic play-by-play of panda pregnancy ploy
  • One Twitter user calls it '50 Shades of Panda'
  • National Zoo hoping for a panda cub by the summer
'Aww' or 'Eww'? Zoo tweets panda insemination

I have to imagine people have received phone calls from HR for viewing the kind of stuff I found myself reading on my work computer Monday afternoon.

In fact, I've long been convinced that when phrases such as "vintage sperm" appear on your screen, your computer automatically shuts down, belches a small puff of smoke and you're instantly whisked away to a four-hour class on inappropriate workplace Google searches.

This is what happens when you can't look away from one of the more fascinating, educational and unintentionally graphic Twitter events in recent memory: The National Zoo live-tweeting the artificial insemination of its giant panda, Mei Xiang.

It was a pretty tech savvy move by the D.C. Zoo, even though it sort of became -- in the words of both Time magazine and -- "panda porn."

Dave Wildt, head of the National Zoo's Center for Species Survival, was manning the Zoo's Twitter feed and posting photos of the annual process.

"The keepers and vets are carrying Mei on a tarp now with handles. It takes 8 people -- she weighs about 230 lbs," he tweeted as the procedure began. Interesting and innocent enough.

And then:

"Dr. Desheng and Dr. Comizzoli are inserting a thin tube about 12 inches into Mei filled with sperm. "


We're all adults here -- well past the age of trying to stifle laughter as our sixth-grade science teacher discusses human reproduction. But this level of graphic detail was not what many people (raises hand) were expecting. And definitely not from a zoo run by the Smithsonian Institution.

Maybe this was part of their strategy?

Just go for it. Hold nothing back. Surprise folks. Make them uncomfortable. Get people talking.

"One of our repro experts, Dr. Aiken-Palmer holds the next vial of 100,000 million sperm. 'It only takes one!' ," Wildt tweeted.

Followed a few minutes later by: "They shifted the table and are positioning Mei’s head lower than her pelvis. Gravity’s important here. "

Well that's one way to get kids interested in science again!

Wildt explained in other tweets that pandas are only fertile for 24-72 hours all year, which is part of the reason why so few remain. Their numbers are rising, but worldwide there are still only about 1,900 giant pandas total, in the wild and in captivity.

And taking their efforts to breed one more baby panda so public drew mostly favorable -- and pretty funny -- reviews on Twitter.

"Okay, I have now decided that @nationalzoo's business is genius," tweeted the Washington City Paper's managing editor. "Absurd, but still genius."

From another user: "Will the zoologists make breakfast for Mei or will they go out for brunch?

And our personal favorite, from @CapitolClio: "50 Shades of Panda?"

It may still be weeks or months before researchers know if their breeding efforts were successful. But as the Zoo tweeted out in one of their final updates, "If what happened in the last few minutes takes, we could have a panda cub here this summer!"

We're already looking forward to the play-by-play of the delivery.

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