The doors of the Ocean Park zoo in Hong Kong remain closed in response to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, but the park’s two giant pandas are keeping busy.
On Monday, zoo officials announced in a press release that their pandas, Ying Ying and Le Le, both 14, finally succeeded in naturally mating after 10 years of trying.
The zoo has undergone “years of trial and learning” in an attempt to get the pandas to mate since the pair arrived in Hong Kong in 2007.
“The park hopes to bring to Hong Kongers exciting pregnancy news later this year while further contributing to the conservation of the vulnerable species,” the release read.
News that the giant pandas were triumphant in natural mating is “extremely exciting,” said Michael Boos, executive director for zoological operations and conservation at Ocean Park.
“The chance of pregnancy via natural mating is higher than by artificial insemination,” he explained.
The zoo — which closed in late January due to coronavirus — began to notice common panda breeding behaviors in late March.
“Ying Ying began spending more time playing in the water, while Le Le has been leaving scent-markings around his habitat and searching the area for Ying Ying’s scent,” according to the release.
The zoo will continue to monitor Ying Ying’s body for signs of pregnancy, though confirmation can only be detected about two weeks before the birth.
“If successful, signs of pregnancy, including hormonal level fluctuations and behavioral changes, may be observed as early as late June, though there is always a chance that Ying Ying could experience a pseudo-pregnancy,” said Boos.
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