We are squealing much like the newborn panda cub with excitement as we type this. Remember Jia Jia and Kai Kai, the iconic stars of River Safari? YES, THEM. They’ve finally bore fruit! No wait, we mean cubs. The pair of giant pandas arrived in Singapore in 2012 on a 10-year loan from China, and since we’ve to return them next year, does it mean we get to keep the cubs? (We can only hope)
The pair of majestic beasts first displayed signs of mating in 2015, yet it is only after seven attempts before they finally managed to conceive. As a result, Jia Jia the giant panda gave birth to our very first panda cub on Saturday (Aug 14), a truly historic moment for us all, and even more so for the team behind this arduous journey at the River Safari.
Hello-Panda! It’s the mating season!
Pictured is Jia Jia, the mother of the newborn cub, carefully picking up her baby in her mouth. A little bit about Pandas now, they are extremely sensitive creatures especially when it comes to their environment which plays a huge part, hence, researchers have to work hard in squeezing out their creative juices when it comes to setting the mood. Another factor that increases the difficulty is that the male and female pandas usually associate for no more than 2-4 days during the mating season in Spring which lasts between March to May. The fact that the panda cub has birthed points to their level of comfort in this little habitat that we’ve built for them in River Safari. Kudos to the team at WRS!
Dr Cheng Wen-Haur, Wildlife Reserves Singapore (WRS)’s Deputy CEO and Chief Life Sciences Officer shares that “In July, ultrasound scans showed a thickening of Jia Jia’s cervix and some fluid in the uterine horns. We stayed hopeful for Jia Jia, while maintaining her ultrasound checks to monitor developments”
Earlier this year in April, the 13-year-old Kai Kai and 12-year-old Jia Jia displayed signs of courtship, officially entering their seventh breeding season. The team at Wildlife Reserves Singapore, overseeing the River Safari, worked closely with the China Conservation and Research Centre for Giant Panda (CCRCGP)] collaboratively initiated the breeding plan for 2021.
Birthing in action
Sigh, if only dating on Tinder were to be as straightforward as how the Pandas do it.
According to the Smithsonian, giant pandas rely on odors and sounds to locate their partners, telltale signs involve male pandas engaging in what is known as a “urine-hopping” dance in which they pee into the surrounding foliage to spread their scent for females to locate. Well, this shouldn’t be difficult considering there are only two of them in the enclosure.
Most Panda births in Zoos were a result of Artificial Insemination but what we have here at River Safari is proudly made in local and ‘au-naturale’, an impressive feat if you were to ask us.
Moving forward, more work continues with the focus being on supporting Jia Jia as a first time mother in raising her newborn cub. Although Giant Pandas remain a threatened species, their threat status has recently improved from Endangered to Vulnerable on the IUCN* Red List of Threatened Species, a testament to the conservation programme initiated by the Chinese wildlife authority with a focus on habitat protection and research on sustainability practices.
Not the only cub to be born in Singapore
Although our latest sweetheart, the giant panda cub is in the limelight, let us not forget the birth of our other very own “Simba”, the lion cub!
Singapore’s very own ‘Simba’ was conceived through means of assisted reproduction with the assistance of vets from the animal hospital on 23 October 2020. Zookeepers and veterinarians worked hard to collect semen from Simba’s ailing father, Mufasa, through the process of electro-ejaculation. Unfortunately, as portrayed in the Disney classic “The Lion King”, the lion cub will grow up fatherless as Mufasa did not manage to survive the procedure with his deteriorating health as a major contributing factor.
To learn more, visit www.wrs.com.sg