Panda cub, mum will return to exhibit in three months
Wildlife Reserves Singapore will post updates on mother Jia Jia and cub, including its name, in coming weeks
The first giant panda cub born in Singapore and its mother, Jia Jia, will return to their exhibit in the River Safari in about three months.
Members of the public will then be able to see the cub, which was born at about 7.50am on Saturday to Jia Jia and father Kai Kai.
Wildlife Reserves Singapore (WRS), which operates the River Safari, yesterday announced the birth and called it "a joyful boost to the ongoing National Day celebrations this year".
It added that the panda cub's gender has not been determined and will be announced later. Jia Jia and her cub, which weighs about 200g, are in an off-exhibit den to give them time to nurse and bond, WRS said.
"We will post regular updates with videos and photos of Jia Jia and her cub on our social media platforms so everyone can keep abreast of their development," said WRS.
It said more updates will be announced in the coming weeks, including the cub's name.
The successful birth comes after the giant pandas' seventh breeding season. They began mating in 2015.
Giant pandas are notoriously difficult to breed in captivity, in part because of the narrow window for conception. Females ovulate only once a year, and their fertility peaks for just 24 to 36 hours.
WRS said 13-year-old Kai Kai and 12-year-old Jia Jia displayed signs of being in heat in April.
It said its animal care team was optimistic that the pandas would naturally breed this year, as the pair had shown improvements in their mating techniques the year before.
However, the keepers did not observe clear signs of successful mounting.
Experts from the China Conservation and Research Centre for Giant Panda advised WRS vets to perform artificial insemination before the end of Jia Jia's receptive period, to make the most of the once-a-year breeding season.
The procedure was carried out by WRS' in-house veterinary team, using frozen semen collected from Kai Kai before the mating season.
It was through the artificial insemination that Jia Jia conceived.
Dr Cheng Wen-Haur, WRS' deputy chief executive and chief life sciences officer, said ultrasound scans done last month showed a thickening of Jia Jia's cervix and some fluid in the uterine horns.
"We stayed hopeful for Jia Jia while maintaining her ultrasound checks to monitor developments," he said, noting that female giant pandas can experience pseudopregnancy - where they show hormonal and behavioural signs of pregnancy even when they are not expecting.
Dr Cheng said the only sure way to confirm a pregnancy is through seeing a foetus that is near to term.
Last Tuesday, a WRS vet saw a clear outline of a foetus with a strong heartbeat during an ultrasound scan.
"Jia Jia's first pregnancy and birth of a cub is a significant milestone for us in the care of this threatened species in Singapore," said Dr Cheng.
"The work continues now with supporting the first-time mother to raise her newborn cub."
Kai Kai and Jia Jia arrived in Singapore in September 2012, on a decade-long loan from China.
Under the agreement, the baby panda will return to China when it turns two, said Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Transport Baey Yam Keng in a comment on his Facebook post about the birth.
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