Pandas at Malaysian zoo set world record


KUALA LUMPUR - The two iconic giant pandas at Zoo Negara have set a world record by being the first pair to naturally reproduce within a short period of time while in capti­vity.

Malaysian Zoological Society Giant Panda Conservation Centre and veterinary services director Dr Mat Naim Ramli said it took eight to nine years for pandas in captivity to reproduce, but even that was usually done through artificial insemination.

“We have set a world record for having our pandas reproducing within a short period through natural breeding outside of China.

“This is definitely a big impact on the research done by China.

“We are even considering keeping Xing Xing’s sperm in a sperm bank,” he told reporters here yesterday.

Malaysia’s very own giant pandas – Liang Liang and Xing Xing – which were given on loan by China, arrived in Malaysia on May 21 last year.

Their arrival marked a 40-year celebration of diplomatic ties between both countries.

The pair from Chengdu, China, was loaned through the Giant Panda International Conservation Cooperation Agreement Pro­gramme.

Previously, there were concerns that the pair were not hitting it off despite attempts at mating.

He said ovulation occurred on May 7 and they monitored Liang Liang by observing her behaviour, checking blood hormone levels, genital physical changes as well as vaginal cytology.

“We suspected she was pregnant on Aug 7 as her progesterone level was high, so we tried to take another blood test the following week, but she did not allow us to do so,” Mat Naim said.

Mat Naim said the birth was unexpected by Zoo Negara as they thought it was a pseudo pregnancy, where a panda displays behaviour of being pregnant but is not.

He said Liang Liang had acted the same way some time in June last year.

On Tuesday, nine-year-old Liang Liang gave birth to a female cub weighing 175g, measuring 20cm, at around 1.45pm at the conservation centre. The gestation period was 104 days.

Both mother and baby were doing well, said Mat Naim.

“Liang Liang is very motherly and she is very protective of her cub.

“We could only separate the baby from the mother for four minutes to quickly weigh, measure the height and determine the sex.

“We are confident Liang Liang will make a good mother and can take care of the cub as she has given birth previously.

“She raised the first baby on her own and we hope she does the same.

“We feel there are better chances of survival with her taking care of the cub,” he said.

Coincidentally, Liang Liang’s first baby, Gong Gong, a male, was also born on the same date as his sister two years ago and is now at the Dujiangyan panda base in Sichuan province.

Mat Naim said both mother and daughter would be quarantined for two months before the public is allowed to view them.

He said that once Liang Liang was ready to leave her cub alone, the infant would be placed in a nursery room for public viewing.

He said the cub would be in Malaysia for two years before being sent back to China.

Zoo Negara deputy president Rahmat Ahmat Lana said children below 12 accompanied by their parents would be allowed in free on the first day when both mother and child were ready to be displayed.