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Zoo pandas under quarantine mate for the first time in 13 years

by ace
Zoo pandas under quarantine mate for the first time in 13 years

Human isolation appears to have had at least a positive effect on the animal kingdom in these times of the coronavirus epidemic. Since 2010, pandas Ying Ying and Le Le have been trying to copulate in their space at the Ocean Park Zoo in Hong Kong. The couple finally managed to "succeed in natural mating" earlier this week, according to management of the park, which has been closed for months in respect of the quarantine imposed by authorities in the Chinese special administrative region to contain the progress of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Ying Ying (female) and Le Le (male) showed signs of entering the estrous cycle since the end of March and were successful in natural mating at around 9am this morning. This is the first success in a decade, ”said park officials on Monday 6.

“Since the end of March, Ying Ying started spending more time playing in the water, while Le Le exhaled his scent around his habitat. Such behaviors are consistent with those adopted by animals during the reproductive season, which occurs once a year between March and May ”, they explained.

The executive director of the Ocean Park Zoo, Michael Boos, warned that Ying Ying may be experiencing a “psychological pregnancy” and that signs of pregnancy, such as behavioral and hormonal changes, should appear from the end of June. If she is really pregnant, Ying Ying should give birth by the beginning of 2021.

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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

The panda, Ailuropoda melanoleuca, is a species notorious for its difficulty in procreation. A female panda is usually fertile, as reported by the American newspaper The New York Times, for an interval of only 24 hours to 72 hours a year, which normally occurs between March and May.

There were only 1,864 pandas in the wild in 2014, according to the most recent estimate by the non-governmental organization Global Fund for Nature (WWF). Native to China, the panda population, however, grew by 17% between 2004 and 2014, points out the WWF.

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In this context, in-vitru fertilization of pandas has been a common practice. But, as Boos points out, “the chance of a pregnancy by natural mating is greater than by artificial insemination”.

Although Ying Ying and Le Le, both 14 years old, started copulating in 2010, when they reached sexual maturity, the couple has been in Ocean Park since 2007.

Ocean Park has been closed for visitation since January 26 out of respect for the quarantine imposed by the Hong Kong government, led by Carrie Lam, to contain Covid-19's advance in the region.

Park management, however, does not associate the absence of visitors with the possible reproductive success of Ying Ying and Le Le.

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Considered an example in the fight against the pandemic, Hong Kong – with 7 million inhabitants, similar to the population of Rio de Janeiro – accounted for only 935 cases of Covid-19 until Tuesday 7, according to an estimate of the local newspaper South China Morning Post.

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