Hong Kong's pandas mate after a decade of trying; Coronavirus lockdown may have given them privacy

Le Le and Ying Ying, two giant pandas in Hong Kong's Ocean Park have successfully mated after trying for a decade

Coronavirus lockdown has brought about positive environmental changes such as a decrease in air pollution. Two giant pandas in Hong Kong's Ocean Park have successfully mated after decade long attempts. Lockdown seems to have given them some privacy.

Ocean Park announced the news on Monday, where 14-year-old resident male and female giant pandas named Le Le and Ying Ying had entered their oestrous cycle. The park being happy about the natural mating, might see pregnancy of Ying Ying later this year and is excited to announce it to Hong Kongers.

The natural mating happened at around 9 am on Monday. This was the first success after the two giant panda's attempted to mate since a decade. "If successful, signs of pregnancy, including hormonal level fluctuations and behavioural changes may be observed as early as late June, though there is always a chance that Ying Ying could experience a pseudo-pregnancy. We hope to bear wonderful pregnancy news to Hong Kongers this year and make further contributions to the conservation of this vulnerable species," said Michael Boos, Executive Director in Zoological Operations and Conservation at Ocean Park, in the statement.

This is the breeding season

Giant Pandas
Giant Pandas Chi King/Wikimedia Commons

The female Ying Ying spent more time in the waters, at a time when the male Le Le, left its scent-markings around his habitat and searched the area for Ying Ying's scent, in March. Such behaviour is usually signalled during the breeding season that occurs annually between March and May.

Looking at the level of Ying Ying's hormones, veterinary and animal care team of the Park confirmed that two giant pandas entered its breeding season. The behavioural changes of these vulnerable animals reached its peak on Monday morning, signalling a natural mating opportunity.

Mating after a decade of learning and trial

Giant pandas, usually are sexually mature at ages of five to seven. However, these pandas only succeeded after a decade of "trial and learning," said Boos. Natural mating has a higher chance of pregnancy than by artificial insemination, he added. The period of gestation in these pandas lie between 72 and 324 days, while pregnancy can only be detected using ultrasound scanning as early as only 14 to 17 days before birth.

Ying Ying and Le Le arrived at the place in 2007, while natural mating attempts started in 2010; Ocean Park has been in long term collaboration with China Conservation and Research Centre for the Giant Panda. There are about 1,864 such pandas in the wild.

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