Pandas mate for first time in 10 years after coronavirus shuts down zoo

Zoe Tidman

Two pandas have managed to mate since their zoo shut down over the coronavirus outbreak, after a decade of trying.

The Hong Kong zoo said its resident male and female giant pandas were finally successful on Monday after “years of trial and learning”.

They had been trying since 2010, Michael Boos from Ocean Park said.

“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,” the executive director in Zoological Operations and Conservation said.

We hope to bear wonderful pregnancy news to Hong Kongers this year and make further contributions to the conservation of this vulnerable species.”​

Giant pandas Ying Ying and Le Le have finally mated after ten years at Ocean Park in Hong Kong: Ocean Park Hong Kong/AFP via Get

The zoo said it noticed Ying Ying, the female giant panda, spending more time playing in the water and Le Le, the male, leaving his scent around his habitat.

“Such behaviours are consistent with those common during breeding season,” Ocean Park said on Monday.

“The teams have been closely monitoring the giant pandas’ body conditions and behavioural changes and deemed it a peak oestrous this morning for natural mating opportunity.”

The zoo — which has been temporarily shut since January due to the coronavirus outbreak — said they could start detecting signs of pregnancy as early as June.

Giant pandas are classified as a vulnerable species with an estimated population of between 500 and 1,000, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s list of threatened species.

They were upgraded from “endangered” in 2016.

The reclassification came after the Chinese government launched a conservation programme to try and boost the giant panda population by making sure their forests had lots of bamboo.

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