'Fertile' Kai Kai lifts hope of baby panda

'Fertile' Kai Kai lifts hope of baby panda
Giant panda Kai Kai feeding at the Giant Panda Forest, the largest panda exhibit in Southeast Asia at the River Safari.

SINGAPORE - Male panda Kai Kai has been found to be not only healthy, but also “fertile” after undergoing his annual check-up.

The finding has boosted hopes that the six-year-old will reproduce with five-year-old female Jia Jia at River Safari Singapore.

Wildlife Reserves Singapore (WRS) said this is the first time that the annual check-up has included a fertility check since the giant pandas arrived in Singapore in 2012.

The check was carried out through a process called electro-ejaculation, a technique commonly used for semen collection to evaluate the reproductive status of animals.

“While more analysis is being conducted to assess its sperm quality, preliminary results indicate that Kai Kai is a healthy, fertile male,” WRS said yesterday.

Last Friday’s tests also involved a full dental and body check, blood sample withdrawal, an X-ray and ultrasound scan.

WRS added that its vets and keepers are closely monitoring Kai Kai and Jia Jia for “significant changes in behaviour that indicate their readiness to mate”.

Efforts are under way to encourage the pandas, on a 10-year loan from China, to reproduce.

Zookeepers have been conducting squat training for Kai Kai to “strengthen his hind limbs so that he can maintain the standing position during mating”, said Dr Cheng Wen-Haur, WRS chief life sciences officer.

Keepers have also been trying to familiarise the pandas with each other’s scent while WRS is monitoring Jia Jia’s urine samples to analyse her oestrogen levels.

“By analysing the hormone levels, we will be able to determine if Jia Jia is close to her mating window,” said Dr Cheng.


This article was published on April 4 in The Straits Times.

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