By Arré Bench Apr. 07, 2020
A Hong Kong zoo was trying to make giant pandas mate for a decade. They did it after everyone left because of coronavirus.
The dating pool might look pretty bleak for the rest of us with lockdown and all, but Ying Ying and Le Le come bearing some exciting news.
The two giant pandas have been together for 13 years at the Hong Kong zoo, but all they needed was some privacy. Who’s doing #QuarantineAndChill like them?
Pandas have famously low-libido species and a cause of celebration in the world of animal conservation, The New York Times reported.
Staff at the Ocean Park theme park and zoo in Hong Kong announced Ying Ying (female) and Le Le (male), both 14, finally got to the act around 9 am local time on Monday after showing certain behavioural changes which are common during breeding season, in late March. The zoo officials stated that after ten long years of “trial and learning” the pandas successfully mated.
“Since Ying Ying and Le Le’s arrival in Hong Kong in 2007 and attempts at natural mating since 2010, they unfortunately have yet to succeed until this year upon years of trial and learning. The successful natural mating process today is extremely exciting for all of us, as the chance of pregnancy via natural mating is higher than by artificial insemination,” Michael Boos, executive director for zoological operations and conservation at Ocean Park, said in a press release.
Giant pandas Ying Ying and Le Le succeeded in a natural mating, @Ocean_Park has announced. "We hope to bear wonderful pregnancy news to Hong Kongers this year and make further contributions to the conservation of this vulnerable species," the park's Michael Boos said. pic.twitter.com/yJCpCdVHeK
— Hong Kong Free Press (@HongKongFP) April 6, 2020
In a bid to contain the spread of the coronavirus owing to the outbreak in China, the zoo has been closed to visitors since January 26. Weeks later, the staff realised that Ying Ying had begun spending more time in the water, while Le Le was leaving scent markings around his habitat and searched around the area for his partner’s scent.
While it’s still early to determine if the mating has led a pregnancy, the vets at the zoo have been monitoring the pair closely. If Ying Ying is pregnant, the gestation period for giant pandas ranges between 72 and 324 days, but the pregnancy itself can only be detected by an ultrasound about two weeks before birth.
“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,” said Boos.
Social media is of course going through a range of #feels.
Some find the news “delightful”…
I don’t know about you but I needed this delightful romp of a story this morning:
sample: “It won’t be known for a while whether the patter of tiny panda paws is on the way” https://t.co/GfVHhoAI16
— Apoorva Mandavilli (@apoorva_nyc) April 7, 2020
Others are saying it like it is, no beating around the bush…
In good news, Hong Kong announces pandas had sex https://t.co/NGKPQpLfLY
— Social Distancing Balding 大老板 (@BaldingsWorld) April 6, 2020
A few may not have been handling the quarantine too well…
Never thought I'd be jealous of a panda. 😭 https://t.co/xyb8if4RNt
— yours, always (@rilzy) April 6, 2020
Although a hopeful news in times of a pandemic, it also plays a massive role in conservation efforts for the species that urgently needs saving. Giant panda is currently listed vulnerable, just one category away from being endangered, according to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. The zoo is looking forward to sharing updates on Ying Ying’s journey to motherhood once there’s progress.
But hey, Ying Ying and Le Le! You guys are bear-y awesome!