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Ocean Park Concludes 4th Annual Giant Panda Mating Season

2014-04-03

Ocean Park concluded this year’s two-day mating season for giant pandas Ying Ying and Le Le on 2 April, and re-opened the Giant Panda Adventure exhibit to the public on the same afternoon. During the time, Ying Ying and Le Le had been put together for 4 natural mating opportunities. While some peak estrus behaviors were observed, natural mating was unsuccessful. Ocean Park also administered artificial insemination on Ying Ying 3 times with Le Le’s fresh semen with the hope of increasing her chance of pregnancy.

To show the strong support of the China Conservation and Research Centre for the Giant Panda in Wolong (“Wolong”) for Ocean Park’s giant panda breeding programme, Professor Li Desheng, the Vice Director of Wolong, accompanied Dr. Wang Chengdong, Director of Veterinary Service of Wolong, to come to Ocean Park this year to take part in the breeding exercise. With their advice, Ocean Park has, similar to last year, utilised Le Le’s fresh semen to artificially inseminate Ying Ying 3 times during the two-day period to supplement the natural mating attempts. The fresh semen collected from Le Le this year was better in quality and quantity compared to previous years, which will likely contribute to a higher pregnancy success for Ying Ying.

Professor Li Desheng, Vice Director of Wolong, said, “Ying Ying and Le Le displayed better mating behaviors than the previous years. We have been working closely with Ocean Park to determine the best timing for putting together the two giant pandas for mating, based on hormonal levels and behavioral observation. However, given the unsuccessful natural mating, we have immediately collected fresh semen from Le Le and conducted artificial insemination on Ying Ying. In the coming months, Wolong will continue to closely follow Ying Ying’s conditions, and we hope that she will be able to become pregnant this year.”

Professor Li added, “The first few mating seasons of young giant pandas usually yield a success rate of only 30-50%. The pregnancy process can also be quite unpredictable, as the pregnancy duration can range anywhere from 70 to 324 days, and false pregnancies are often observed. Given the small size of the fetus, which on average weighs only 120 grams at birth, a true pregnancy cannot usually be confirmed by ultrasound until 2 weeks before birth.”

Ms. Suzanne Gendron, Executive Director of Zoological Operations and Education, said, “We are pleased that Ying Ying and Le Le’s fourth mating season has occurred. The peak of Ying Ying’s estrous cycle has now passed, and we will closely monitor her condition over the coming months. If successful, we expect to observe signs of pregnancy around early August this year.  Whilst there is always a chance that she could experience a pseudo-pregnancy, with the normal fluctuations in hormonal levels and behavioral changes such as decreased food intake, we are hopeful that she has been successfully impregnated and will deliver a cub.”

We will continue to update the public on the latest developments of Ying Ying as information becomes available.