It is confirmed today that giant panda Ying Ying is not pregnant, despite showing signs earlier in September that are suggestive of a typical panda pregnancy. This is sometimes the case for giant pandas, which are known to have unpredictable pregnancy processes. Success rates during the first few mating seasons of giant pandas are usually quite low at only 30-50%.
In July 2013, Ying Ying and Le Le completed a two-day mating period, during which Ying Ying was artificially inseminated with Le Le’s fresh semen. Since mid-September, Ying Ying had started displaying some typical pregnancy symptoms including reduced food intake, increased resting time, a swollen vulva, and corresponding hormonal changes. These pregnancy symptoms were comparatively more prominent than the two previous mating seasons, possibly because of Ying Ying’s physical maturation into adulthood. Her conditions continued to be closely monitored by the Park’s veterinarians and animal keepers on a daily basis through periodic ultrasound scans, blood and urine sample collections, and behavioral observation.
In the past few days, it was observed that Ying Ying’s pregnancy symptoms started to diminish. She has resumed spending more time awake and active, and is regaining her appetite. Her hormonal levels are also returning to base line levels. After detailed review and discussion with Wolong experts, it was confirmed that Ying Ying’s chance of pregnancy this year is very low.
Dr. Wang Chengdong, Director of Veterinary Service of the China Conservation and Research Centre for the Giant Panda in Wolong, said, “Although we have been hopeful of a pregnancy this year because of Ying Ying’s positive pregnancy symptoms, repeated ultrasound scans have failed to confirm the presence of a fetus. The fact that her symptoms have started to taper off and her hormonal levels are returning to normal over the last few days suggests that her chance of pregnancy this year is very low. This is not unexpected, as panda pregnancies are filled with unknowns, and false pregnancies are often experienced. We remain hopeful for the future, as both Ying Ying and Le Le are very healthy, and her prominent pregnancy symptoms displayed this year show that she is maturing well and will continue to become more and more receptive to a successful pregnancy.”
Ms. Suzanne Gendron, Executive Director of Zoological Operations and Education, said, “Although we are disappointed by the results, we are nevertheless encouraged by Ying Ying and Le Le’s physical maturity and improvement this year. We will continue to work closely with Wolong to provide the best husbandry care to our giant pandas. We look forward to next year’s mating season, and to welcoming our first giant panda offspring in the future.”