Two giant pandas at a Hong Kong zoo mated for the first time in almost 10 years after having more private time together.
Prior to the successful copulation, zoo officials at the city’s Ocean Park have been trying to get female panda Ying Ying and her male partner Le Le to mate naturally for about a decade, but to no avail.
The pair, which are both 14 years old, finally mated recently after the park was closed to visitors due to the pandemic.
Ocean Park Executive Director Michael Boos shared that the development is exciting for them as this may result in a potential pregnancy.
“The successful natural mating process today is extremely exciting for all of us, as the chance of pregnancy via natural mating is higher than by artificial insemination,” Boos was quoted saying.
In late January, the park was closed to visitors amid growing concerns about the pandemic. Members of the zoo staff soon noticed that the two giant pandas were exhibiting certain behaviors that are common during their breeding season, which is supposed to be in March and May.
“Since late March, Ying Ying began spending more time playing in the water, while Le Le has been leaving scent-markings around his habitat and searching the area for Ying Ying’s scent,” the press release noted.
As the zoo looks forward to a possible offspring to come, Ying Ying has been placed under strict monitoring for physical and behavioral changes.
“If successful, signs of pregnancy, including hormonal level fluctuations and behavioural changes may be observed as early as late June, though there is always a chance that Ying Ying could experience a pseudo-pregnancy,” Boos explained.
The zoo will be sharing more updates on Ying Ying if she is eventually found to be pregnant. The gestation period for giant pandas ranges between 72 and 324 days.
Should Ying Ying give birth eventually, it would make a huge impact on the conversation efforts for the species.
Based on Ocean Park’s figures, there are only around 1,800 giant pandas remaining in their natural habitat. Currently listed as “vulnerable” in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, giant pandas are just a category away from being “endangered.”
“We hope to bear wonderful pregnancy news to Hong Kongers this year and make further contributions to the conservation of this vulnerable species,” Boos said.
Feature Image via 捷视频