River Safari gears up for possible panda pregnancy

23 Jun 2017

Singapore, 23 June 2017 - While it is too early to tell, Jia Jia’s keepers leave nothing to chance; Daily cub retrieval and urine collection conditioning conducted in preparation for a possible pregnancy.

Jia Jia’s keepers have been hard at work since this year’s mating season ended for River Safari’s pair of giant pandas.

Kai Kai and Jia Jia were put together for natural mating on 30 March, following which artificial insemination was carried out to maximise the chances of breeding under human care. Professor Ng Soon Chye, an obstetrics and gynaecology specialist internationally renowned for his expertise in reproductive medicine, assisted River Safari’s veterinary team during the insemination process.

Prof Ng Soon Chye, an obstetrics and gynaecology specialist, (extreme left) and Dr Serena Oh, Asst. Director, Conservation, Research and Veterinary Services, Wildlife Reserves Singapore (in blue scrubs) carefully inseminating Jia Jia with Kai Kai’s sperm in March 2017.

Photo credit: Wildlife Reserves Singapore

Since then, the team of keepers at River Safari’s Giant Panda Forest have been conducting daily cub retrieval and urine collection conditioning sessions for Jia Jia in preparation for the possible arrival of a baby panda. Urine collection conditioning allows keepers to collect fresh and uncontaminated urine samples from Jia Jia to monitor her hormonal levels. A gradual increase in progesterone levels indicates a possible pregnancy or pseudo pregnancy. Getting Jia Jia used to handing her cub to the keepers allow her carers to conduct health checks, and to provide supplementary or foster care for the cub if required.

Keepers also started Jia Jia on a daily dosage of folic acid, a pre-natal and pregnancy supplement. River Safari’s team of vets and keepers are holding their breaths on Jia Jia’s pregnancy status. Giant pandas have delayed implantation during pregnancy and as such, vets cannot confirm a pregnancy until the later part of the panda’s gestation period, which in Jia Jia’s case, falls between August to September.

Image 2: Jia Jia positioning herself so that Keeper Sim Pei Ying is able to collect fresh and uncontaminated urine for hormone level tests. These conditioning sessions are conducted daily.

Photo credit: Wildlife Reserves Singapore

Animal Care Officer, Andre Taleon, retrieving the ‘cub’ from Jia Jia. Should Jia Jia be pregnant, this conditioning will allow keepers to safely retrieve the cub from Jia Jia, for health checks and general care.

Photo credit: Wildlife Reserves Singapore