Well, it turns out that humans aren’t the only ones relieving their quarantine boredom with a good romp. We figured there would be a wave of newborns coming into the world in around 9 months (what with most outdoor/social activities off the table and the looming condom shortage), but now it seems we may hear the pitter-patter of little black-and-white paws in the near future.
Ocean Park announced that its resident giant pandas, Ying Ying and Le Le (both aged 14 — we love an age-appropriate romance) succeeded in their first natural mating at 9am yesterday. The bears, who arrived in Hong Kong in 2007, have been trying and failing to get it on with each other for the last decade.
Captive pandas are notoriously bad at procreation, with some zoos even showing their resident bears panda porn to teach them how to mate. Due to the couple’s sexual incompatibility, Ocean Park’s conservation team has artificially inseminated Ying Ying on multiple occasions, resulting in two phantom pregnancies and one miscarriage.
Park officials normally close the panda attraction for a few days during mating season to encourage the bears to boink, but Ocean Park has been extra quiet this year — having closed its doors in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak — and the added privacy might just have done the trick. The pandas began flirting with each other in late March, with Ying Ying spending more time playing in water (#thirsttrap) and Le Le marking his scent around his habitat.
And because Ocean Park filmed their first time together, Ying Ying and Le Le now have a sex tape that they can re-watch to get them in the mood again. Hey, maybe they’ll even get to pick up a keychain of the momentous occasion from the Panda Kingdom Image Gallery.
All jokes and souvenirs aside, this is a huge deal. “The successful natural mating process today is extremely exciting for all of us, as the chance of pregnancy via natural mating is higher than by artificial insemination,” said Michael Boos, executive director in zoological operations and conservation. “If successful, signs of pregnancy, including hormonal level fluctuations and behavioral changes may be observed as early as late June”.
For now, we’ll just have to wait and see. The gestation period for giant pandas ranges between 72 and 324 days, and pregnancies can only be confirmed via ultrasound around 14 to 17 days before birth at the earliest.