Singapore could be one step closer to getting its first pair of panda babies, with female panda Jia Jia showing early signs of being in heat. But it faces one hurdle - male panda Kai Kai is just not into her.
Wildlife Reserves Singapore's (WRS) chief life sciences officer Cheng Wen-Haur said on Friday: "Kai Kai is food-oriented so he is very good as an exhibit animal. When visitors come, he'll be sitting there munching his food away."
"But from a breeding point of view, he's not showing nearly enough interest in his girlfriend."
The giant pandas arrived here in September last year on a 10-year loan from China.
Giant pandas usually start to breed around the ages of 51/2 to seven. Last month, Jia Jia turned five and Kai Kai turned six.
"Getting Jia Jia pregnant is our topmost priority. But they're still young. We're giving them more time," said Dr Cheng.
He was speaking to the media after a closed-door discussion, Asia's Panda Roundtable On Veterinary Practices, held at the River Safari.
The discussion involved 16 experts from six countries, including China, and touched on topics of best practices in panda care.
Kai Kai's refusal to mate is not unusual though.
According to figures shared during the discussion, 9 per cent of the world's male panda population do not know how to mate, said WRS chairman Claire Chiang.
Experts who attended the event, organised by WRS, also exchanged information based on each country's experience in caring for pandas. Topics included reproduction monitoring, nutrition and dental issues.
It was also a chance for Singapore to share what it has learnt so far, according to Ms Chiang.
"This is the first time that a pair of pandas have stayed for so long in Asia's tropics," she said.
"It's an additional body of knowledge we can lend to the whole research."
Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.