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Anything but the bear necessities for Hong Kong's pandas

By Willa Wu | China Daily | Updated: 2016-12-09 07:53

Anything but the bear necessities for Hong Kong's pandas

The next generation

The two younger pandas bear the responsibility of producing the next generation. Giant pandas are solitary animals and only come into contact during the peak of their period of sexual receptivity, which lasts about three days a year. Another problem is the pregnancy success rate of just 30 to 50 percent.

The team has spared no efforts in trying to bring about Hong Kong's first panda birth. They stash food and toys at higher levels in an attempt to strengthen Le Le's hind legs, so they will support his weight when mating. They also place bags that carry the pandas' scent in each other's habitats to familiarize them with each another. The panda house was even closed to the public temporarily in April in the hope of encouraging natural mating.

Leung was overjoyed by Ying Ying's successful pregnancy in May last year, even though he was not her main caregiver at the time. Sadly, 130 days later, Ying Ying had a miscarriage.

"It was a very sad moment for me," Leung said. "But the whole animal team agreed to put sorrow aside because it was even more important for us to monitor her condition closely during the recovery process. The experience was a valuable lesson that helped us to understand the things we should emphasize when providing care."

Because pandas are solitary, the trainers do not actively intervene in their lives. As a result, Leung's time with the pandas is limited to daily checkups and medication. He makes full use of those few minutes to talk to the pandas, either encouraging them to cooperate or praising them for finishing the checkups.

"It feels like an accomplishment when the pandas respond to me. Words cannot describe how I felt when I realized that they had learned to recognize my voice," he said.

The best thing his job has taught him is patience: "Knowledge of pandas is gained through daily observation and interaction - more haste, less speed. If you take time to watch, to concentrate, you will definitely achieve something."

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The pandas living at Ocean Park were gifts from the central government, brought from the mainland to mark anniversaries of the establishment of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.

Jia Jia and An An arrived in 1999, while Ying Ying and Le Le came to the park in 2007.

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