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Ocean Park Achieves World-class Standard in Conservation by Providing Caring Home and Healthy Life for Pandas of Different Ages Ying Ying and Le Le Officially Step into Adulthood on their 6th Birthday

2011-08-08

(8 Aug 2011 – Hong Kong) Ocean Park today celebrated the 6th birthday of Ying Ying and Le Le as they officially entered adulthood, as well as that of An An and Jia Jia, whose birthday also fall in August. The 33-year-old Jia Jia enjoyed a special birthday as she gained recognition as the world’s 2nd oldest panda under human care. The celebration testifies to the world-class quality of care Ocean Park has been able to provide giant pandas in different stages of development. Through close collaboration with experts from around the world, Ocean Park has achieved practical skills and professional knowledge in panda care on par with facilities in mainland China. At the birthday party for the 4 giant pandas today, Ying Ying, Le Le and Jia Jia each savoured a specially prepared icy birthday cake while An An enjoyed his favourite birthday bun. To spread panda birthday joy among the public, Ocean Park has prepared a series of promotional celebrations for guests, including the launch of a Panda “Happy Birthday” Crystal Ball Decoration to be sold at a 40% discount, and a 40% discount on panda buns at the Panda Café from 8 August until the end of the month. Not only will the Happy Birthday Crystal Ball Decoration provide a warm reminder of the momentous occasion, a portion of the proceeds will support the important conservation efforts sponsored by Ocean Park.

Dr. Allan Zeman, Chairman of Ocean Park, said, “Under our attentive care, the four giant pandas have been conveying conservation messages, as well as advocating environmental awareness and the protection of endangered species over the years. Giant pandas An An and Jia Jia have been playing the role of animal ambassador for 12 years while Ying Ying and Le Le have been growing up healthily during the past 4 years, bringing enormous joy for Park guests. I am very proud of Ocean Park’s animal husbandry team for having provided a suitable living environment for the giant pandas during different stages in their life. This is a testament to the fact that our facilities and animal care have achieved world-class standards. Our panda caregivers visited Sichuan to receive training on giant panda care and engage in exchanges with experts so they can adopt the best practices in nurturing and caring for pandas of different ages. All this helps to optimize our breeding efforts. The fact that our adorable panda grandma Jia Jia has enjoyed good health can be credited to the joint efforts of Ocean Park and the experts at the China Conservation and Research Centre for the Giant Panda, not to mention the tireless dedication of our panda caretakers. With Ying Ying and Le Le entering adulthood, they have started mating. Although Ying Ying has yet to become pregnant, we are hopeful that the young couple will give birth to the first panda cub in Ocean Park within the coming years.”
Ms. Suzanne Gendron, Executive Director of Zoological Operations and Education, said, “Although Ying Ying has shown signs of sexual maturity and entered her first annual estrous cycle in March, while Le Le has also become sexually mature, there are many challenges in achieving successful  panda breeding, according to Wolong experts. The first mating season of the young pandas usually yields a success rate of only 30 – 50%. To date, Ying Ying‘s pregnancy was proven negative through regular testing. We will continue to closely monitor their mating and work with the experts in Wolong, other conservation partners and Home Affairs Bureau. We look forward to Ying Ying and Le Le bringing new members to Ocean Park’s family of animal ambassadors in the future.”
Giant pandas Ying Ying and Le Le have been growing up in Ocean Park since the age of 2. As they begin to display more signs of sexual maturity, there will be more opportunities for guests to learn about their conditions. Entering adulthood, Ying Ying and Le Le have both undergone obvious physical changes. For instance, Ying Ying’s weight has increased from 60 kg to 90 kg since arriving in Hong Kong while Le Le has grown from 70 kg to 125 kg – a clear sign that they are both physically healthy. Their muscles have grown bigger with time and the “thumbs” on their wrists have become much stronger than before as well. With bigger molar teeth and jaw bones, they can easily grasp and grind the hard bamboo that they consume. Adult pandas spend 14 hours on average to eat around 10-20 kg of bamboo every day. In light of the panda’s growing needs, Ocean Park has adopted various care measures to ensure they can develop normally in a comfortable environment, such as medical care behavioural training (blood test and measuring of blood pressure), enrichment programmes, behavioural observation and monitoring.

Also celebrating their panda birthday today are An An and the 33-year-old Jia Jia, whose exact birth dates are unknown as they were rescued from the wild. Both have been living in Hong Kong for 12 years and enjoy good health. Like other pandas in an advanced age, Jia Jia experience normal muscular pains, arthritis and high blood pressure. However, diet has not been a problem as their teeth are in good condition. Similarly, An An has also displayed signs of old age such as high blood pressure. Being the first zoological facility in the world to detect and treat high blood pressure in giant pandas, Ocean Park will utilize its well-equipped veterinary facilities to continue to monitor the giant pandas’ health situations.

As Ocean Park’s conservation ambassadors, the giant pandas have been conveying important conservation messages to the public. Since the arrival of An An and Jia Jia eleven years ago, the Park’s panda-related educational programmes have remained the most popular among guests and students. Of the over 54,000 students that benefited from courses offered by Ocean Park Academy, Hong Kong (OPAHK), about 25% attended one of the five giant panda related courses that we offer for levels ranging from kindergarten to secondary school. Through making recycled paper out of giant panda wastes or learning about the rebuilding of a bamboo corridor, students have come to realize that “endangered species like giant pandas and red pandas could eventually go extinct if we did not engage in conservation” and that “protecting the environment starts with us”. Ocean Park also offers a number of panda-related guests programmes, including a behind-the-scene tour and an Honorary Panda Keeper programme whereby guests can learn how to take care of these lovable animals.

Through Ocean Park Conservation Foundation, Hong Kong, (OPCFHK), Ocean Park has enabled guests to indirectly contribute to panda conservation. While the Park donates HK$1 from each paid admission to OPCFHK, guests can specifically direct that donation to benefit panda conservation through a new “voting system” installed inside the Grand Aquarium. Furthermore, the Park not only contributes a portion of proceeds from all panda-related souvenirs to the Foundation, it also established the Giant Panda Base Rebuilding Fund on the day immediately following the 2008 Sichuan Earthquake. The Fund has raised HK$7.36 million to date. In the 2011-2012 fiscal year alone, the Fund has allocated over HK$2 million to giant panda conservation and rebuilding projects, including: continuing support to rebuilding facilities, distribution of resources to affected areas in nature reserves, habitat restoration for giant pandas, and sponsorship of conservation research projects. For example, in June 2011, OPCFHK organized a Study Tour for Sustainable Development in Wolong Nature Reserve to exchange experience with mainland officials on conservation techniques and facility management, animal care, eco-tourism, public education, staff training and more. Also, OPCFHK visited the peripheral areas of the Sanjiang Field Station in Wolong Nature Reserve, Sichuan Province in April this year to sponsor and participate in the planting of 160,000 bamboo seedlings to help recover 4,700 hectares of giant panda habitat that had been destroyed. In addition, OPCFHK has allocated over HK$620,000 in 2011-2012 to support four new giant panda research projects on topics ranging from the behavioural development of giant pandas, their adaptability to different types of forests, bamboo and vegetation recovery, and factors affecting the formation of ecological corridors for pandas.

Dr. Zeman added, “The four endearing giant pandas and our extensive guest programmes and courses have significantly strengthened the community’s connection to this iconic species as well as the passion among many panda-loving families for the conservation of pandas and their habitat. I encourage everyone to visit Ocean Park during this month to share in their favourite pandas’ birthday joy.”

Note to editors: Ying Ying and Le Le’s birthdays are on 16th and 8th August respectively.

*Special thanks to Häagen-Dazs for sponsoring the giant ice cake for giant pandas Ying Ying, Le Le and Jia Jia.