Claudia Winkleman: Take It From Me

'As for pandas getting married... If there's one thing that'll stop a healthy sex life in its tracks, it's a wedding'
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The Independent Online

My heart goes out to Kanika Limtrakul, general manager of the Chiang Mai Zoo in Thailand. Since 2004 they've pulled out all the stops in an effort to get their panda up the duff. But Lin Hui and Chuang Chuang just won't, will not, no siree, have sex. Kanika and her fellow zoologists are at their wits' end.

The pandas have both been given extra-scrumptious bamboo to help them get in the mood for mating fun. Foreigner's "I Want to Know What Love Is" has been played to the bears 24/7 to try to get them to feel frisky. Kanika has even resorted to panda porn to see if that would provide the impetus for the two animals to get jiggy with it.

When all of these methods of seduction failed the zookeepers went all out and staged a "wedding" between the two pandas. Other animals were invited (the penguins were particularly excited as they were already dressed) and the hippos danced. There were speeches (well, roars) and everyone ate party finger food. There was a cake (in the shape of a baby paw print, no less) and then the hopeful panda experts stood by and watched the two newly-weds settle down on their rush-matting mattress, praying there would be some hot wedding-night action. She patted his shoulder, he snorted and they both went out like a light.

This week Kanika and her workmates have announced their latest plan of attack. They've put Chuang Chuang on a diet, assuming that the lighter Lin Hui (she weighs considerably less than her would-be boyfriend at only 253lb) just doesn't fancy doing it with a chubster.

Chuang Chuang's favourite bamboo shoots have been banned and he's only allowed to eat the more slimming leaves. As the pounds drop off him, the world (or at least the world that is interested in the mating rituals of pandas) watches on, hoping that as soon as his jaw is a little more defined the duo will light a scented candle, swirl with Listerine, open page 64 of the Kama Sutra and hit the sack.

Now, I'm no animal expert (quite the opposite in fact, I'm still not totally sure how to tell the difference between a weasel and an otter), but I'd like to offer some suggestions to the Thailand zoo about how they could get their pandas to do it.

In my experience, slow lovey-dovey songs do nothing to encourage deep-down lust. There's one exception of course, and that is George Michael's "Careless Whisper" - but only if it's played at the end of a school disco. That might make teenagers snog but it's all pretty wet and revolting and only lasts 5 minutes and 4 seconds. No cute miniature panda will result from that.

Then there's the porn. Well, it's either your thing or it isn't but it can be more useful if you're, um, watching it alone. Debbie Does Dallas or Min Min Does Beijing is quite fun on a Sunday night if your partner is away but when they're back you sort of have to pretend that he or she alone under the duvet wearing some cotton briefs is all you need to get going.

And as for the pandas getting married, well, it's obvious that the Thai zookeepers lost total leave of their senses. If there's one thing that will stop a healthy sex life dead in its tracks, it's a wedding. If you were ever the type of girl (or panda) who thought nothing of throwing on a peek-a-boo bra, a cowboy hat and shouting "harder" on a Wednesday afternoon, then a wedding ring will swipe that away immediately. Even the most rampant couple will end up doing it every other month once they've tied the knot.

So what do I suggest? These pandas will be at it faster than you can say, "Wow, are these bears in the same family as rabbits?" if the zookeepers do the following: Chuang Chuang and Lin Hui should each be given large photographs of different pandas to put up in their areas - there's nothing quite like a bit of jealousy to get a mate horny.

Then, and this is vital, the pandas should be trained to ignore each other totally. No eye contact apart from a fleeting glance should be allowed between the two animals. Shrugging a shoulder and looking in the opposite direction will sort them out soon enough. If they really want to speed things up then Lin Hui should laugh at other guys' jokes. If her mobile could ring and another panda in Shanghai could really make her guffaw then that would help things a lot.

And then, if sex is really vital, when Chuang Chuang tries to kiss her, Lin Hui should pull back, march into her area of their hideaway and pretend to go to sleep. That will do it every time. Hello, I think it's time to book the panda maternity nurse.

And as for the diet? Chuang Chuang doesn't need to lose weight; a bit of girth never hurt a man. Look at Elvis Presley, Marlon Brando and Eric Bristow - all ladies' men, all sex gods. Just tell her to be as tricky as hell. Oh, and she's going to need some high heels and a thong.

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