(Hong Kong 7 July 2013) Ocean Park is happy to announce that Ying Ying, the 7-year-old female giant panda, is confirmed to be entering her estrous cycle for this year. Starting from today, Ying Ying and Le Le will be put together for mating opportunities, and the Giant Panda Adventure exhibit will be temporarily closed to the public during this period to minimize human disturbance on any mating attempts. This is the third mating season for Ying Ying and Le Le since they became sexually mature in 2011.
Dr. Allan Zeman, Chairman of Ocean Park, said, “We are very excited to see Ying Ying and Le Le entering their annual breeding season, with the possibility of a giant panda cub this year. Nevertheless, we recognize that there are many challenges along the way – according to our colleagues at Wolong, the first few mating seasons of the young pandas usually yield a success rate of only 30-50%. We will remain hopeful on Ying Ying’s situation, but we must also be realistic. In the meantime, we will continue to work closely with our partners in the Mainland, the State Forestry Administration, Sichuan Forestry Department, Wolong’s China Conservation and Research Centre for the Giant Panda, as well as the Hong Kong SAR Government. We greatly appreciate the support they have given us.”
Ms Suzanne Gendron, Executive Director of Zoological Operations and Education, said, “Over the past few week, Ying Ying has displayed estrous behaviors such as water play, vocalizations and restlessness. Physical examination of Ying Ying by the Park’s veterinarians, combined with her hormonal levels, further confirmed that she is entering her estrous cycle for this year.” She added, “We will be watching Ying Ying and Le Le closely because there is the potential for one or both of the giant pandas to be aggressive during the natural mating process. This happens normally in the wild but we would prefer to minimize any risk of injury during moments of aggression. An expert from Wolong has recommended that we should encourage natural mating during the course of the peak of Ying Ying’s estrus, and support with artificial insemination. We are hopeful of a cub to be conceived and born this year, as it will help us reach even more people to advocate about giant pandas and the conservation work being done on their behalves.”
Dr. Wang Chengdong, Director of Veterinary Service of the China Conservation and Research Centre for the Giant Panda in Wolong, said, “We are glad to welcome Ying Ying’s breeding season and are excited to be a part of Ocean Park’s giant panda breeding efforts. Ying Ying and Le Le will be put together starting today for natural mating. We may also provide assistance with the artificial insemination of Ying Ying to further increase the chance of fertilization.”
Dr. Wang added, “The pregnancy process of giant pandas is filled with surprises and uncertainties – implantation of a fertilized egg is usually delayed, leading to the pregnancy duration to range anywhere from 70 to 324 days. While Ying Ying may display bodily changes and hormonal levels which are indicative of a pregnancy, they are not conclusive measures and false pregnancies are often observed. A true pregnancy cannot be confirmed until around 2 weeks before birth by ultrasound. We are impressed with Ocean Park’s keeper and veterinarian teams for their professionalism and commitment, not just to the birth of a giant panda but to the conservation of the species in China.”
Ocean Park will continue to update the public on the latest developments of Ying Ying as information becomes available.