SINGAPORE — Singapore's first panda cub was born on Saturday (14 August) at River Safari to Kai Kai and Jia Jia, the two giant pandas who arrived in 2012 on a 10-year loan from China.
In a media release on Sunday, the Wildlife Reserves Singapore (WRS) said that the cub’s gender is yet to be determined and will be announced later. Meanwhile, the baby and mother Jia Jia are in an off-exhibit den to give them time to nurse and bond.
WRS added that 13-year-old Kai Kai and 12-year-old Jia Jia displayed signs of being in heat in April this year, thereby entering their seventh breeding season.
"Working closely with the China Conservation and Research Centre for Giant Panda, WRS’ animal care team initiated the breeding plan for 2021, emphasising natural mating with assisted reproductive technology as back up if required," it said in the media release.
"There was optimism that the pandas would naturally breed this year, after the pair had shown improvements in their mating techniques the year before."
Artificial insemination procedure
As the courtship between Kai Kai and Jia Jia unfolded, under close observation by the panda care team with real time updates to the Chinese experts, the window of opportunity for a successful mating was fast dwindling.
To make the most of the once-a-year breeding season, the experts advised WRS' vets to perform artificial insemination before the end of the receptive period. The procedure was carried out successfully by the in-house veterinary team at WRS' Wildlife Healthcare and Research Centre, using frozen semen collected from Kai Kai before the mating season.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said in an Instagram post on Sunday that he is delighted by the birth of the panda cub at the Singapore zoo.
"It is famously difficult for pandas in captivity to reproduce. Pandas have only a narrow window each year to conceive," he wrote.
"This is the seventh attempt for Kai Kai and Jia Jia. Their keepers deserve kudos for this difficult and rare accomplishment, and for persevering despite previous failures."
Sending back to China when cubs are two years old
Under the loan agreement, should Jia Jia give birth, the cubs will be sent back to China when they are two years old, as part of the original agreement with China Wildlife Conservation Association, in line with the WRS’ commitment to the conservation of endangered species.
Giant pandas’ conservation threat status recently improved from "Endangered" to "Vulnerable" on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature's Red List of Threatened Species.
This is testament to the conservation programme instituted by the Chinese wildlife authority which encompasses habitat protection, research and maintenance of sustainable population in human care. Caring for Kai Kai and Jia Jia in Singapore contributes to giant pandas’ conservation efforts.
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