Fans turn up at River Wonders to celebrate S’pore-born panda Le Le’s 2nd birthday
Children skipped school and adults took leave from work on Aug 14 to celebrate Singapore’s first locally born giant panda Le Le’s “two-rrific” birthday.
The cub was born to mum Jia Jia and dad Kai Kai on Aug 14, 2021, after many attempts to conceive.
Fans sporting panda paraphernalia like T-shirts, headbands and other accessories gathered on the walkway overlooking the panda exhibit at River Wonders.
They fawned over Le Le as the young panda enjoyed his spread of birthday treats, including a bamboo cake, and a healthy mix of sugarcane, sweet potato, grapes and bamboo shoots.
The panda care team put up cheery decorations in the enclosure which he shares with his mother and planted gift boxes of hay for Le Le to open. Kai Kai has a separate enclosure in the Giant Panda Forest.
As Le Le, accompanied by his mother, ate his way through his treats, there was a chorus of oohs and ahs.
“It’s so cute! How they eat, how they go around and play, everything,” said 11-year-old Sadaanandh Prem, who took a day off school to see Le Le with his parents and younger sister.
His mother, Ms Shaline Prem, 38-year-old home tutor, said Sadaanandh told her that if he could, he would want to jump into the exhibit and play with the pandas.
As giant pandas are extremely solitary animals, cubs in the wild naturally separate from their mother at age 18 to 24 months.
As Le Le has come of age, he is expected to grow more independent of Jia Jia in the coming months.
During this transition, the interaction between mother and cub shifts, with the mother slowly rejecting her offspring and the cub beginning to eat, sleep and rest alone.
Noticing Le Le’s growing autonomy, the animal care team is helping him to get used to his own private den.
Once the separation phase is complete, the mother and son will split their time in the exhibit, with Le Le present from 10am to 2pm, and Jia Jia from 2pm to 6pm. Kai Kai is allowed out to his exhibit area throughout River Wonders’ opening time, from 10am to 7pm.
Visitors told The Straits Times that Le Le’s birth was one bright spark during the gloomy days of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“I think it brought a lot of brightness, a lot of hope, in the midst of Covid,” said civil servant Joanne Ng, 44, a regular visitor to the panda exhibit at River Wonders.
Mr Eric Teo, a 25-year-old student who attended Le Le’s first birthday party in 2022 and enjoys taking photos of the giant pandas, said: “Last year, because he was still a bit young, he was tumbling around. But this year he seems to be more well adjusted.”
Tourists joined local panda enthusiasts to celebrate the little panda’s milestone.
Ms Rei Taniguchi from Japan praised River Wonders’ open exhibition areas as pandas in zoos that she had visited back home keep them enclosed.
With Jia Jia and Kai Kai’s 15th and 16th respective birthdays fast approaching in September, some fans already have plans to return to the zoo.
Director of operations for cyber security Tei Boon Ping, 55, has booked leave from work to attend both celebrations.
When asked why he takes so much interest in the giant pandas, he said: “Pandas have a very cheerful face that seems to encourage everyone, especially after a hard week of work.”
Jia Jia and Kai Kai have been on loan to Singapore from China since 2012, and in 2022, the Mandai Wildlife Group, which operates River Wonders, signed a deal with the Chinese authorities to extend the 10-year loan of the pandas for five more years, until 2027.