An AGB Films production for BBC NHU / BBC Worldwide / PBS

Narrated: David Attenborough

AGB Films spent 18 months in Chengdu, filming the fascinating and sophisticated science of Panda reproduction Chinese style.




International Wildlife Film Festival

International Wildlife Film Festival

International Wildlife Film Festival

International Wildlife Film Festival






It wouldn't be entirely fair to say that pandas are their own worst enemy – human beings have that distinction – but as an endangered species they don't do themselves any favours. What kind of animal would rather roll around on its back with a stick of bamboo than have no-strings sex?

Still, you can't just give up on them, and after 50 fruitless years of trying to get pandas to reproduce in captivity – and who could have guessed sending them on long romantic holidays to foreign zoos wouldn't work – Chinese scientists are finally pulling their finger out. Panda Makers, a Natural World special, came from the Chengdu breeding centre in Sichuan province, a leafy, pioneering asylum with frolicking teddy- bear cubs attended by researchers in pastel scrubs and surgeon's masks. A miraculous 136 new pandas were born here last year. But how? Pandas are astonishingly fussy, refusing to eat two-thirds of every truckload of bamboo you've gone to the trouble of fetching from the mountains and turning their noses up at the sexual partner you've chosen for them on the one day a year they're supposed to be up for an essential lifesaving shag. The male we saw was fabulously inept as the clock ticked down, lumbering hither and thither with his unhopeful erection the size of a penny bubblegum, the girl panda wisely keeping her own nether quarters one shuffle ahead of it. I felt sorry for the scientists, who did everything but take their trousers down and offer a practical demonstration. You could almost hear them muttering: you don't get this trouble with goats.

In the end they went for artificial insemination – and even then it turned out you couldn't tell if a panda was pregnant until it actually started having babies, which could be 11 weeks later or 11 months, depending on which way the wind was blowing. Anyway we finally got babies, which were like skinless chicken thighs to start with but (despite the female panda's laughable mothering skills) soon turned into cute little bristly polka-dot things you could imagine on sale down the market among the tiger penises and powdered rhino horn, perhaps hollowed out as designer exfoliating gloves. Just kidding. In fact the Chinese revere pandas as never before, raising millions from abroad (hire fees from those foreign zoos) to pay for this important long-term project. Next step is getting them to live in the wild. Can the panda survive without being, um, pampered? No one knows.




Narrated: David Attenborough

Executive Producer and Director: Andrew Graham-Brown

Written and Produced: Sorrel Downer

Photography: Robin Cox Film

Editor: Nigel Buck

Series Editor: Tim Martin