China turns to "sexercise" to encourage panda breeding

How do you teach an endangered species -- especially a species as uninterested in sex as the panda -- to mate ? In the past, handlers at China's Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding have tried showing their pandas videos of other pandas having sex. Since that only had limited success, they're now trying a new tactic: exercise.

Dubbed "dirty dancing" by China Daily, the "sexercise" program encourages male pandas to walk on their hind legs, which in turn, says researchers, strengthens their pelvic and hip muscles and boosts their sexual stamina.

Other techniques in use include having older, more experienced pandas mate in front of their younger zoo-mates; moving their food around so the pandas get more exercise; and putting male and female pandas into cages previously occupied by the other gender, so they get used to their counterparts' scents.

According to Fei Lisong, deputy chief of the base, the hard work is paying off, and the notoriously asexual pandas are definitely learning, and that  more than 30% percent of the facility's pandas can now have sex "naturally," compared with only 10% when he started working at the base 10 years ago.

There are less than 2,000 pandas left in the world. China has high hopes of boosting that population ahead of this summer's Olympic games.