Panda Jia Jia not pregnant after all

Panda Jia Jia in her enclosure at the River Safari.
Panda Jia Jia in her enclosure at the River Safari.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - River Safari's female panda Jia Jia is not pregnant, despite having shown signs of being so.

Based on scientific data gathered from her behaviour and hormone levels, the birthing window has now passed and panda caretakers concluded that the seven-year-old bear is not pregnant.

Jia Jia underwent artificial insemination on April 18, after an unsuccessful mating attempt with her male counterpart, Kai Kai.

Since July, she has been eating less bamboo, sleeping more and her hormone levels has been increasing - all signs consistent with pregnancy or pseudopregnancy, when a bear has pregnancy symptoms without being pregnant. Giant pandas commonly display such false pregnancies and experts worldwide are often not able to determine a panda's pregnancy status until a late stage.

Dr Cheng Wen-Haur, Wildlife Reserves Singapore's chief life sciences officer, said: "Our team of vets and keepers were cautiously optimistic in welcoming a baby panda and while we cannot expect one this year, we are pleased and encouraged by the development of Kai Kai and Jia Jia.

"The past months have provided an invaluable learning experience for us in understanding the complex reproduction and biology of one of the world's most charismatic species, and we hope for better results next year."

Panda caretakers will review information and data collected in the last few months before the next breeding season for the bears begins around April.

To get the pandas accustomed to physical contact with each other, keepers aim to bring the pandas together before the start of the mating season.