With female giant panda Ying Ying and male giant panda Le Le thought to be about to mate, Hong Kong Ocean Park has closed its Giant Panda Adventure section until further notice.
Park spokeswoman Suzanne Gendron said both pandas had shown signs of being ready to mate, such as water play and vocalizations by Ying Ying and Le Le’s increased interest in sniffing of Ying Ying’s scent.
In terms of physical and hormonal changes, the park’s veterinary team and experts from the China Conservation and Research Center for the Giant Panda in Wolong confirmed that the two giant pandas are entering this year’s breeding season, which, Gendron said, is considered an appropriate timing for experts to prepare for Ying Ying’s and Le Le’s breeding season and temporarily close the section.
This year, the closure period of the area where Ying Ying and Le Le live will be longer than previous years so that expert teams from Ocean Park and Wolong will be able to closely manage and monitor the pair’s breeding behavior from the moment they exhibit early signs of breeding to the time they hit the peak of their breeding cycle.
The gestation period for giant pandas can last from 72 to 324 days and pregnancy confirmation can only be detected by an ultrasound scan some 14 days before birth at the earliest.
Ying Ying and Le Le, who experienced their first mating season in 2011, will be turning 12 years old this August.
The Giant Panda Adventure section will be reopened to the public after Ying Ying successfully gives birth to a panda cub, or after it is confirmed she is not pregnant, the park said.
Ocean Park, which was founded in 1977, has gained widespread recognition for its animal husbandry, research and its relationship with the community.