Ocean Park today announced that giant panda Ying Ying is pregnant, which has been confirmed by a series of ultrasound examinations over the past ten days. This is the first pregnancy for a giant panda in Hong Kong. The 10-year-old panda participated in the National Giant Panda Breeding Programme for the first time earlier this year by travelling to Sichuan for natural mating opportunities. Ying Ying’s condition is within normal parameters for a pregnancy. Assuming there are no complications, she is expected to give birth within about one week.
Whilst Ocean Park’s animal care team first noticed in late July hormonal changes and other typical early-pregnancy symptoms in Ying Ying, there were no definitive signs confirming a pregnancy, as opposed to a pseudo-pregnancy. Since then, she has been under close monitoring for other indications of pregnancy. From 4 September onwards, Ying Ying began to display further signs, such as reduced food intake, increased resting time, and a heightened sensitivity to sounds and her surroundings. After repeated ultrasound scans conducted in late September, it was confirmed that Ying Ying is carrying a foetus. Given the development and present size of the foetus, which is now about 3.5cm in length, the Park’s veterinary team estimated that she could potentially deliver the cub within about one week. Two panda maternity specialists have travelled to Hong Kong from Sichuan to provide pre- and post-natal support.
Ms. Suzanne Gendron, Executive Director of Zoological Operations and Education for Ocean Park, said, “We are cautiously optimistic about the prospect of welcoming the first giant panda born in Hong Kong. Since Ying Ying’s return from Sichuan, we have approached her potential pregnancy with the utmost care. As the foetus of giant pandas does not start developing until the final few weeks of pregnancy, we were only able to confirm Ying Ying’s status through ultrasound scans late last week. To provide Ying Ying with the best pre- and post-natal care, we have minimised noises and disturbances in her environment and extended our monitoring to 24 hours a day. In fact, since Ying Ying’s first breeding season, the Park has been preparing for the arrival of our first panda cub, from setting up a well-equipped nursing room to sending our animal care team to panda facilities in China for training on nursing newly born panda cubs.”
Mr. Li Desheng, Deputy Director of Sichuan Wolong National Nature Reserve Administration, said, “Ying Ying was temporarily relocated to Sichuan in February 2015 for her first-ever participation in the National Giant Panda Breeding Programme. During her stay in Sichuan, she attempted mating with two male pandas for a total of five times and eventually mated once. Ying Ying also underwent artificial insemination to maximise her chances of pregnancy. A paternity test will eventually be conducted when veterinarians confirm it is safe to do so. Since Ying Ying’s return to Hong Kong, Ocean Park has provided a high level of care and kept us well informed of her condition. To ensure the delivery would proceed as smoothly as possible, we have arranged for two of our panda maternity specialists to provide on-site advice and assistance. We are hopeful that Ying Ying would soon make a contribution to the conservation of giant pandas by giving birth to the first panda cub born in Hong Kong.”
Dr. Lee Foo Khong, Veterinarian of Ocean Park, said, “One of Ying Ying’s earliest signs of potential pregnancy was a significant drop in her appetite, from her usual 10kg per day to only 1kg. She also started spending as many as 22 hours a day resting, up from her usual 14 hours. Since this is Ying Ying’s first pregnancy, we have been drawing on the advice of experts from Sichuan to prepare for the full spectrum of contingencies. In fact, itremains a possibility that Ying Ying could resorb or miscarry the foetus. Regarding the phenomenon of foetal resorption, scientists still do not fully understand the causes.”
Ying Ying was gifted to the people of Hong Kong together with male panda Le Le by the Central People’s Government in 2007 in celebration of the tenth anniversary of the establishment of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region. They were both born in the Wolong National Nature Reserve in Sichuan.
Ms. Gendron added, “Knowing that Ying Ying is well loved by Hong Kong people, we recognise the significance of her pregnancy and will keep the public updated as much as possible while the pregnancy progresses.”