Let’s Get It On: Ocean Park pandas might be sent to Sichuan to breed

Ocean Park’s pandas, Ying Ying and Le Le in their pen. Screengrab via YouTube.

Ying Ying and Le Le just won’t boom boom.

And for that reason, the two giant pandas, residents of Hong Kong’s own Ocean Park, might be headed to Sichuan next year in a bid to get them breeding.

Liu Hong-bao, director of the Sichuan Forestry Department, dropped the news in a conversation with reporters yesterday during a visit to the theme park to promote Sichuan Nature Conservation Week, which promotes panda conservation in the province.

Attempts by park staff to get the two 13-year-old pandas to procreate have fizzled since they first arrived in Hong Kong in 2007, Ming Pao reports.

Liu explained that aside from the fact that pandas already have a low reproductive rate — and captive pandas do the deed at about 26 percent that of wild pandas — the city’s warmer weather has also made it difficult for the two pandas to get it on, as the best breeding temperature for giant pandas is between minus 10 and 25 degrees Celsius.

Liu said his department will work closely with Ocean Park on the possibility of sending the two pandas to Wolong, a protected nature reserve in Sichuan that has a breeding center for pandas, next year.

Given that the breeding period for pandas usually lasts about 130 days, it’s possible that they would need to stay in the mainland for at least a year if they are indeed transferred.

“We have no problem with this, but many Hongkongers have strong feelings for Ying Ying and Le Le. If the two have to leave, then we may need to communicate with the public,” said Liu.

If it’s been decided that it’s best for the pair to be sent to Sichuan, Liu said his department will consider arranging lending the park another pair of pandas on a temporary basis to quell any disappointment from those who go to the park just to see the pandas.

This would not be, by the way, Ying Ying’s first trip to Sichuan. In 2015, the female panda was sent to the province without Le Le in a bid to get her pregnant. While it’s unclear if we have artificial insemination or the fact that she did indeed mate with a male there to thank, Ying Ying was impregnated at the time. Unfortunately, she suffered a miscarriage in October that year.

Ying Ying and Le Le were given to Hong Kong as a gift from the Chinese central government to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the handover.

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