Two giant pandas have started mating again! Of the series “love in the time of coronavirus“, this is finally good news, as it happens only after almost 10 years of tough waiting, in the Hong Kong zoo, far from the looks of visitors, most probably due to the closing of the zoo gates following the spread of COVID-19.
Veterinarians from Ocean Park celebrated the event on social media: “We are thrilled with the success of natural mating, as it implies a higher probability of pregnancy than artificial insemination,” explained Michael Boos, executive director of Ocean Park, taken from the New York Times. “We hope to have wonderful news about this pregnancy,” concluded Boos.
It took about ten years for Ying Ying and Le Le, the two giant pandas from Hong Kong’s Ocean Park, to come closer. The operators of the zoo have shared on social media that the two animals, after several unsuccessful attempts, have returned to mating, finding the right understanding perhaps precisely “in the quiet imposed by the lockdown due to the coronavirus”.
Ying Ying and Le Le had come to Ocean Park in 2007, but they had never shown mutual interest, also because of the too many visitors who observed and photographed them every day, considering them two stunning attractions of the structure. Not surprisingly, the path of artificial insemination had been attempted several times, without success.
Ying Ying, the female, had never been able to carry a pregnancy to term. So this time there is a party in the Ocean Park zoo after years of unsuccessful attempts. “Only in June will it be possible to understand if Ying Ying has become pregnant”, the zoo’s executive director Michael Boos told to the South China Morning Post. The mating season for pandas operates from March to May. The species, listed in the IUCN red list because it is at risk of extinction, has only 1800 specimens in the world that live in freedom.
The gestation of pandas extends from 72 to 324 days (from 3 to 5 months). The birth of small pandas would be an unexpected fortune for Ocean Park which was already in economic difficulties before being forced to close temporarily due to the pandemic. Now, however, nature is taking its course, in a now deserted zoo, which closed its doors in late January.
The giant panda is known to be an animal that is seriously threatened with extinction. And if it seriously risks extinction, there must be more than a reason. No, it is not only the fault of the man who is devastating his natural habitat full of tender bamboo rushes to gnaw. Even in the best conditions, the giant panda remains of certain laziness in terms of reproduction.
According to the World Wildlife Fund, only 1,864 giant panda specimens have remained on the planet in the wild and around 400 in zoos around the world as part of a conservation program. Scientists around the world are wondering how to save this curious animal. Maybe now this experience will suggest to them that there was an element that they had not yet considered with sufficient attention in their studies. The privacy element!