Pandas are just as picky as humans when it comes to love, new research has found, as they are more successful at breeding if they are able to choose their own panda partner.
This could spell trouble for Adelaide Zoo's Wang Wang and Funi, who only have each other.
United States and Chinese scientists found zoo pandas' mating attempts rose from 0 to 80 percent if there was a little romance in the air beforehand.
This could perhaps attribute to the difficulty of breeding the endangered species in captivity.
Conservation reintroduction programmes, which operate by matching males and females together via their genetic profiles to minimise the effects of inbreeding, are often expensive and not guaranteed to succeed.
Meghan Martin-Wintle and colleagues studied the mating behaviour of about 40 pandas at a conservation and research centre in China, who were allowed to choose their partner.
This was done by placing an individual panda in the centre of an enclosure that gave visual access to two potential partners housed at each end. Testing with both males and females as the central panda, they found that mating success and cub production were enhanced when there was a strong preference for one of the two choices, and was enhanced even further when both pandas shared a mutual preference.
The panda's preference of the two choices was shown by an increase in its pre-mating behaviours, such as scent-marking and chirping.
The research could become a cost-effective and efficient way to improve captive panda breeding and make sure zookeepers and the giant bears are kept happy.