Despite promising signs and after months of monitoring, River Safari’s female panda, Jia Jia, will not be delivering a cub this year. Based on scientific data gathered from her behaviours and hormone levels, the birthing window has now passed and panda caretakers concluded that the seven-year-old bear is not pregnant.
After multiple ultrasound scans and months of monitoring Jia Jia’s behaviours and hormone level, vets and keepers at River Safari concluded that the seven-year-old female is not pregnant and was undergoing pseudopregnancy.
Jia Jia underwent artificial insemination on 18 April after an unsuccessful mating attempt with her male counterpart, Kai Kai. Since July, she was seen eating less bamboo, sleeping more and her hormone levels were increasing – all signs consistent with pregnancy or pseudopregnancy. Giant pandas commonly display pseudopregnancies and experts worldwide are often not able to determine pandas’ pregnancy status until a late stage.
Dr Cheng Wen-Haur, Chief Life Sciences Officer, Wildlife Reserves Singapore, said: “Our team of vets and keepers were cautiously optimistic in welcoming a baby panda and while we cannot expect one this year, we are pleased and encouraged by the development of Kai Kai and Jia Jia. The past months have provided an invaluable learning experience for us in understanding the complex reproduction and biology of one of the world’s most charismatic species, and we hope for better results next year.”
Panda caretakers will review information and data collected in the last few months before the next breeding season for the bears begin around April. To get the pandas accustomed to physical contact with each other, keepers aim to bring the pandas together before the start of the mating season.
In addition, caretakers will continue to vary daylight hours and temperature in the Giant Panda Forest – a technique which successfully triggered the breeding cycles of the pandas in April this year. Pandas’ mating instincts are brought on by hormonal changes in response to seasonal variations such as temperature changes and increasing day length from winter to spring. To simulate this seasonal transition, the pandas will return to their dens earlier between October to March, and later between April to September.