Ocean Park’s popular panda attraction is back open after resident pandas Ying Ying and Le Le once again failed to mate — their ninth attempt in eight years for those keeping score at home.
The theme park announced on Sunday that the pair had entered the breeding season, and would have to temporarily close the Giant Panda Adventure to the public in a bid to set the mood for the two pandas.
Sadly, no sparks flew in the three-day window they were given, leading to this morning’s announcement that we are all free to resume staring at the adorable couple.
“During the three-day mating period, Ying Ying and Le Le were together for eight natural mating opportunities but all their attempts appeared unsuccessful,” Michael Boos, the park’s executive director for Zoological Operations and Conservation, said in the statement.
But while the couple’s latest attempt to procreate naturally proved a bust, it doesn’t necessarily mean Ying Ying isn’t with child. As Boos explained, over the three-day mating period, the park also artificially inseminated her with Le Le’s semen three times.
We won’t know whether or not that proved successful before late June, however, as that’s the earliest Ying Ying would display signs of pregnancy such as hormone level fluctuations and behavioral changes.
The gestation period for giant pandas lasts between 72 to 324 days, and pregnancy can only be detected by ultrasound scan between 14 to 17 days before birth.
The pair, both 13 years old, were given to the city as a gift from the Chinese central government to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the handover in 2007.
Last week, it was hinted that if Ying Ying fails to get pregnant again this year, the two might be sent to the panda reserve in China’s Sichuan province to potentially breed with other panda mates.
If that happens, it would be Ying Ying’s second visit to the province. Her first visit came in 2015, when she was successfully impregnated on a trip there without Le Le, though park officials at the time were unsure whether the pregnancy came about via artificial insemination or mating naturally with a local male.
Unfortunately, she suffered a miscarriage in October of that year.