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Ocean Park Concludes Annual Giant Panda Mating Season 100% Fresh Semen Used for Artificial Insemination for the First Time

2013-07-09

(9 July 2012 – Hong Kong) Ocean Park concluded this year’s two-day mating season for giant pandas Ying Ying and Le Le on 8 July, and re-opened the Giant Panda Adventure exhibit to the public today (9 July). Ying Ying and Le Le had been put together for natural mating opportunities, but unfortunately no successful mating behaviors were observed. Ocean Park has also utilised Le Le’s semen to artificially inseminate Ying Ying at the peak of her estrus in hope of a pregnancy for her.

Fresh semen was successfully collected from Le Le and was used for the artificial insemination procedures on Ying Ying this year. Compared to previous years which utilized a mixture of fresh and frozen semen, the abundant production and collection of fresh semen from Le Le this year enabled us to use 100% fresh samples for Ying Ying’s artificial insemination procedure this season. Fresh semen is usually better in quality, resulting in a much higher pregnancy success for the female giant pandas.

Dr. Wang Chengdong, Director of Veterinary Service of the China Conservation and Research Centre for the Giant Panda in Wolong, said, “Both Ying Ying and Le Le are healthy and in very good condition. Although they are still relatively inexperienced and were therefore unable to mate naturally, we were fortunate to have collected fresh semen of good quality and quantity from Le Le, and the artificial insemination of Ying Ying was conducted very smoothly.” 

Ms. Suzanne Gendron, Executive Director of Zoological Operations and Education, said, “We are pleased that Ying Ying and Le Le’s third 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 October to November 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.” 

Dr. Wang 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.”

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