Look how much you've grown: Baby panda's first month

Jia Jia and her panda cub on day 13 (Aug 26, 2021) after the cub was born.
Jia Jia and her panda cub on day 13 (Aug 26, 2021) after the cub was born.PHOTO: WILDLIFE RESERVES SINGAPORE
The yet-unnamed cub has been confirmed to be a boy.
The yet-unnamed cub has been confirmed to be a boy.PHOTOS: WILDLIFE RESERVES SINGAPORE

SINGAPORE - Sept 13 marks the full-month celebrations of Singapore's first panda cub, born on Aug 14 at the River Safari.

The long-awaited birth came after the giant pandas' seventh breeding season. Dad Kai Kai, 13, and mum Jia Jia, 12, began mating as far back as 2015.

Giant pandas are notoriously difficult to breed in captivity, in part due to the narrow window for conception. Females like Jia Jia ovulate only once a year, and her fertility peaks for just 24 to 36 hours.

Experts from the China Conservation and Research Centre for Giant Panda advised veterinarians from Wildlife Reserves Singapore to perform artificial insemination, using frozen semen collected from Kai Kai, to make the most of Jia Jia's breeding season. Finally, the conception was a success.

The yet-unnamed cub has been confirmed to be a boy. Meanwhile, mum and baby are in an off-exhibit den to give them time to nurse and bond in privacy.

Here is a behind-the-scenes look at baby panda's first 30 days.

Day 4, Aug 17


PHOTO: WILDLIFE RESERVES SINGAPORE

Giant panda mum Jia Jia cradles her cub as it suckles contentedly. The baby arrived on Aug 14 at 7.50am. Since her baby's birth, Jia Jia has focused her energies on caring for it - nursing and licking it - but appears exhausted at times.

Day 6, Aug 19


PHOTO: WILDLIFE RESERVES SINGAPORE

As Jia Jia adjusts to motherhood leading up to the little one's first week of life, rest periods for mother and baby last longer than before. The cub continues to be very vocal when it is hungry and that prompts Jia Jia to sit up to check on it. After nursing, she will lie back down for a snooze as baby settles down in mum's protective embrace.

Day 7, Aug 20 


PHOTO: WILDLIFE RESERVES SINGAPORE

On average, a newborn panda is 1/900th of its mother's weight. The cub weighs an estimated 200g at birth and is pink and furless. Within the first week, it is already covered with a sheen of white fur.

Day 8, Aug 21


PHOTO: WILDLIFE RESERVES SINGAPORE

Jia Jia continues to pay full attention to her cub and has not started eating bamboo leaves despite being offered them. She sustains herself on electrolytes, which the panda-care team syringe-feeds her. The baby's call when it is hungry is getting distinctive - sharp shrills and short loud squeaks have been heard.

Day 10, Aug 23


PHOTO: WILDLIFE RESERVES SINGAPORE

Jia Jia continues to hone her maternal skills and is able to sleep for extended periods of time. The cub is more or less quiet during rest times too. Based on data provided by Chinese experts on the growth curve of cubs at this 10-day milestone, Jia Jia's cub would be an estimated 380g.

Day 12, Aug 25


PHOTO: WILDLIFE RESERVES SINGAPORE

Jia Jia is starting to move around the den more frequently. She walks to the middle and then goes back to her favourite corner. She also looks around and responds to the staff of the panda-care team more. The cub's belly is often observed to be full and it sleeps longer before the next nursing. Its markings such as the dark colouration around the hind legs, back, eyes and ears are soon becoming more prominent. The panda-care team will also transition from 24-hour shifts to observing Jia Jia until 10pm and, subsequently, remotely overnight.

Day 16, Aug 29


PHOTO: WILDLIFE RESERVES SINGAPORE

As the cub starts to adopt different poses in its sleep, Jia Jia reaches another milestone. Today, she starts eating bamboo leaves again.

The eyes of the baby may not be open yet, but the black outlines around them are already defined. On average, panda cubs open their eyes when they are between six and eight weeks old.

Day 21, Sept 3


PHOTO: WILDLIFE RESERVES SINGAPORE

The cub's fat belly makes another appearance - a sign that it is suckling well and mum has plenty of milk. Jia Jia also rediscovers her appetite and is comfortable about leaving her cub for short intervals. The giant pandas of River Safari usually eat about 20kg of bamboo a day each, but Jia Jia is only starting to munch again, almost three weeks after giving birth.

Day 24, Sept 6


PHOTO: WILDLIFE RESERVES SINGAPORE

Jia Jia has been eating more bamboo - on average, between 10 and 15 minutes at a time, and sometimes away from her cub. Her carers also monitor her fecal output, an important health indicator of her digestive system.

Day 25, Sept 7


PHOTO: WILDLIFE RESERVES SINGAPORE

Another day, another milestone. From today, the panda-care team transitions to monitoring Jia Jia and her cub from 8am to 7pm. Mother pandas are in contact with their cub nearly all the time during its first month - with the cub resting on her front and the remaining parts covered by her paw, arm or head.