Overheard on CNN.com: Panda sex drive, robotic squirrel and a Beltway Batman
Edinburgh's male giant panda, Sunshine, enjoys a meal in December. Sadly for Sunshine, sex isn't on the menu.
April 5th, 2012
07:48 PM ET

Overheard on CNN.com: Panda sex drive, robotic squirrel and a Beltway Batman

Editor's note: This post is part of the Overheard on CNN.com series, a regular feature that examines interesting comments and thought-provoking conversations posted by the community.

The following three stories are all a bit - or a lot - bizarre, but they've gotten a really interesting reader response. Check out the comments from readers.

Why panda sex is so complex

Pandas have a reputation for being picky maters with a narrow window of opportunity. Conservationists in Scotland were hoping panda pals Sweetie and Sunshine would take their courtship to the next level, but alas, nothing came of it. Readers had lots of suggestions to improve the process.

"Throw a bottle of wine, a pair of cuffs and a copy of 'Fifty Shades of Grey' in the cage, that should get her going," said NorCalMojo.

Some suggested that pandas need to mate if they want to survive, and if they can't mate, we humans need to help them along. "Oh, just get the turkey baster already," wrote commenter Paul. CNN.com's Elizabeth Landau responded to the following reader's comment.

Harry: "Either artificially impregnate the female panda or let them go extinct. If they only have a three-day-a-year window for reproduction then it's pretty clear that they won't survive as a species with humans around. So either we save it ourselves or let it go bye-bye.

elandau: "A number of readers asked about artificial insemination in pandas. This is a common practice for captive pandas, veterinarian Copper Aitken-Palmer tells us. For instance, every baby panda born at Zoo Atlanta has been the result of artificial insemination, and most groups with giant pandas in the United States, Europe and China participate in assisted reproduction techniques."

Is the panda beyond help?

MashaSobaka: "It's amazing how many people are going 'Eh ... extinction is natural, why bother saving them?' Extinction due to destruction of habitat is not natural. Do you people honestly believe that the thousands of species that have died out due to pollution and shrinking habitat would have died off if humans weren't so hell-bent on destroying the world? Really? How about I come into your home, poison your water supply and steal all your food, and then tell you that your slow death is all part of the circle of life. Let's watch you advocate for extinction then."

MarcXW: "In most cases, I would agree. However, with pandas it is different. They aren't simply disappearing due to their environment being destroyed (at a very slow rate). Their population has been declining for a long time now steadily, and this is the reason why. They do not reproduce even when they're given all the opportunity to do it. Without human intervention, pandas would very quickly be extinct, and not due to their forests disappearing, but because they don't want to reproduce. We need to stop wasting money on a useless cause such as this one. There are other species that deserve to be saved and still try to reproduce, not to mentions billions of humans suffering."

Neeneko: "The Giant Panda has been having a population decline since the Pleistocene. Even if humans were not impacting them, they are so specialized that they have difficulty adapting to other environmental changes. Pandas are one of the poster children for conservation, which means they get a disproportionate amount of resources, resources that could be used on species that have a better chance of survival or whose decline is exclusively linked to man-made activity ... in other words, species we can actually help."

But then, some just needed a little more romance for themselves.

Thomas: "24-72-hour window yearly ... holy crap, I think I my wife is a panda."

And now, we segue from mating relationships to something a little more contentious.

'Robosquirrel' deployed to research relationship with rattlesnakes

U.S. researchers are using robot squirrels to learn more about how real ones interact with rattlesnakes. By using the robots, they hope to isolate the effects of squirrels' "flagging" motions from their tendency to heat up their tails to fool a snake's infrared sensors.

"Snakes will rarely strike a flagging adult squirrel, and if they do they almost always miss," said Rulon Clark, assistant professor of biology at San Diego State University. Readers were a bit baffled by this story.

GoRemoteKCI: "In many areas the squirrel's main predator is the automobile, and that flagging behavior does not work well as the cars seem to ignore it completely."

spudnikidaho: "Now you did it. Some whack job scientist is going to try and develop bullets that look like snakes to see if squirrels can dodge them."

Cue the Skynet references.

bloodawg: "On April 4th, 2012, Robosquirrel became self aware ..."

Hypothesis1: "The day robot squirrels become self-aware and learn to replicate is the day I begin hoarding for the end times. It is also the day I give up on effective bird-feeding strategies."

Some didn't see the point. Others did.

Sylar75: "Hmmm. Someone spent how much to see how squirrels interact with snakes? Is there a squirrel shortage?"

doodlebug2222: "Think of it this way. They have found an animal that we actually can study up close without ending up dead, that not only confronts a rattler, but is able to avoid it. So the question is, what exactly is the squirrel doing that not only allows him to get that close, but keeps the snake from striking early on. The answer might help keep so many from being bit when out in the field."

There was a vibrant discussion about the value of science.

Kristi_Denmark: "This study may seem weird, but when a scientist asks 'why', amazing things can come from it. Knowledge for knowledge's sake is a worthy endeavor as well."

CNNidegaz: "Until it's applied to political theory, and you have Sarah, Michele and Hillary shaking their tails at the cameras."

Others saw a different point altogether.

Tankeray: "Well, this makes that robot girl at the bar last night all make sense now. I should have known it was a UC Davis experiment when she started robo-talking to me."

Hypothesis1: "I'm guessing your snake missed the mark as well."

Simple request:

Operaman333: "Just keep your robot squirrel off my flagging lawn."

Finally, we take a look at a man who dresses as Batman.

Holy traffic stop! Violation highlights Beltway Batman’s good deeds

Our readers had lots of positive things to say about the so-called Beltway Batman, who got pulled over by the police because he replaced his license plate with a Batman logo.

luckyponytoo: "Totally awesome. Superheroes may only exist in comic books and movies, but Lenny Robinson is about as close to the real thing as you can get. At the very least, he is making the lives of sick kids happier for a few hours. He may very well be aiding in their healing and literally saving lives in the process. Not everyone has the resources to pull off something this grand, but we should all remember the healing power of joy. Costume or no, every one of us can share happiness with others and make each other and ourselves healthier in every way."

Drowlord: "Cheers to Lenny! It reminds me of Alan Hale Jr., who played the Skipper on "Gilligan's Island." The guy was in three seasons of a show that was crucified by entertainment critics, and he spent the rest of his life dressed as Skipper, visiting children in hospitals. Too few people like this in the world."

Even those with their doubts were pretty nice about it, and there was a bit of sarcasm as well.

Sofa King: "But ... he's not really Batman."

Mr Practical No Fun: "The money he spent on this venture could have purchased many pallets full of rice or flour, which could have fed many, many sick and poor children. Burlap sacks could have been bought and re-sewn into cheap tunics for them to wear, and straw could have been bought and spread over the floors for them to sleep on. Lower the lights to save money and calm them down, do not give them any excitement which could drain their energy and shorten their lives."

Share your opinion in the comments area below and in the latest stories on CNN.com. Or sound off on video via CNN iReport.

Compiled by the CNN.com moderation staff. Some comments edited for length or clarity.


Filed under: Animals • Environment • Overheard on CNN.com • Science • Scotland • Snakes • World
soundoff (5 Responses)
  1. leeintulsa

    alan hale appeared at six flags over texas once, drunk as a skunk. a drunk skunk.

    April 5, 2012 at 11:25 pm | Report abuse |
  2. TvNyC

    Pandas are cool. Save them for sure. The world is ending slowly anyway...boom :-)

    April 6, 2012 at 1:03 am | Report abuse |
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    April 6, 2012 at 6:57 am | Report abuse |
  4. bobcat (in a hat) ©

    Isn't that Kung Fu Panda ?

    April 6, 2012 at 5:23 pm | Report abuse |
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    April 9, 2012 at 10:25 am | Report abuse |