SINGAPORE — Having spent two years in Singapore at River Wonders wildlife park under the care of Mandai Wildlife Group, giant panda cub Le Le is set to return to China in the second half of December as part of conservation efforts for the threatened species.
In a media release on Friday (Sept 22), Mandai Wildlife Group said that a farewell event will be held for the young male giant panda cub at the Pavilion Capital Giant Panda Forest exhibit at River Wonders on Nov 20. After this, it will be placed under mandatory quarantine on the same day.
Mandai Wildlife Group oversees several wildlife parks such as Singapore Zoo, Bird Paradise, Night Safari and River Wonders (formerly named River Safari).Dr Cheng Wen-Haur, the group’s deputy chief executive of life sciences and operations, said: “Since its birth in 2021, Le Le has captured not only our hearts, but also that of the entire nation and overseas visitors, giving us many joyful moments as we watched it grow.”
Dr Cheng, who is also the group’s chief life sciences officer, added: “We celebrate that it will soon be checking off its biggest milestone yet when it goes to China.”
The cub will head back to China after a period of preparation, which also involves separating Le Le from its mother, Jia Jia, the statement said.
Le Le has shown increasing signs of independence such as eating, resting and playing on its own without its mother’s presence.
Jia Jia, has also started to show some avoidance behaviour, such as moving away from Le Le when it approaches.
This is normal, because in the wild, panda mothers will first show behavioural changes and will end up rejecting their cubs.
“All of this is part and parcel of the life stage progression of giant pandas, which are solitary by nature,” Mandai Wildlife Group said.
To this end, its animal care team has been conditioning the cub to enter a new private den away from Jia Jia since February, and the pandas have been fed separately in their respective dens since August.
Mandai Wildlife Group said that “timesharing” of the Pavilion Capital Giant Panda Forest exhibit will kick in soon and the public will be able to see Le Le from 10am to 2pm and Jia Jia from 2pm to 6pm.
In the lead-up to the cub’s departure at the end of the year, Mandai Wildlife Group and its China counterparts will make preparations “behind the scenes” to ensure that Le Le is in optimal condition for its journey to China, such as performing vaccinations, health assessments and other forms of conditioning.
PARENTS TO REMAIN, FOCUS ON FUTURE BREEDING
Le Le’s parents, Kai Kai and Jia Jia, will remain in Singapore at River Wonders under the care of the group, which will continue to work closely with its Chinese counterparts to “ensure the continued well-being of both pandas”.
The group will also “focus on planning for their future breeding cycles”, the statement said.
Le Le was born on Aug 14, 2021 — nine years after first-time parents Kai Kai and Jia Jia arrived in Singapore in 2012.
Giant pandas are difficult to breed both in captivity and in the wild, so Le Le’s birth was a significant event, with more than 64,000 people voting in an online poll to decide its name.
Before its birth, there have been yearly attempts to encourage Kai Kai and Jia Jia to mate since 2015.
As part of Le Le’s farewell, River Wonders’ visitors will get a 40 per cent discount off the one-adult-one-child admission bundle from Oct 6 to 31.
Visitors may also revisit Le Le’s adorable moments through a series of photo points and drop off farewell fan mail, and those who are spotted in panda-inspired outfits may stand a chance to receive a Le Le sticker sheet.