Panda cub Le Le among 900 animal births at Mandai in 2021

Le Le's birth at the River Wonders was the result of years of hard work and dedication from the animal care teams. PHOTO: AFP

SINGAPORE - The birth of giant panda cub Le Le in August last year was just one of about 900 new animals that were born in 2021 across Singapore's four wildlife parks.

In a statement on Wednesday (Feb 23), the Mandai Wildlife Group (MWG) said these births were spread across 160 species, of which 44 are listed as threatened under the International Union for the Conservation of Nature's Red List of Threatened Species.

The group, formerly known as Wildlife Reserves Singapore, manages the Mandai Wildlife Reserve which comprises the Singapore Zoo, Night Safari, Jurong Bird Park and River Wonders in Singapore.

Le Le's birth at the River Wonders was the result of years of hard work and dedication from the animal care teams as well as a significant breakthrough in MWG's breeding efforts, the statement said.

The Singapore Zoo also welcomed two Grevy's zebra foals in September as well as four African-painted dog pups.

The zebras are part of a population management programme by the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria. The dogs are one of Africa's most threatened large carnivores. They were once widespread across the continent's savannahs but are now endangered.

At the zoo's RepTopia section, more than 70 endangered golden mantella frogs were hatched as well as a pair of Sakishima grass lizards and three endangered South-east Asian box turtles, also known as Malayan box turtles, which are native to Singapore.

The zoo also managed to successfully breed the unique false gharial for the first time. Known also as a tomistoma, this threatened species of crocodiles from South-east Asia are notoriously difficult to breed under human care as very specific conditions are needed.

The Night Safari celebrated last Christmas with the birth of a Sunda slow loris, an endangered species of primates native to South-east Asia. These primates are threatened with extinction owing to the growing demand in the illegal pet trade and their supposed healing properties.

The statement added that the birth of the slow loris is "welcomed as it contributes to MWG's efforts in managing the international ex-situ breeding programme for this species".

Ex-situ breeding programmes are those that take place outside of an animal's natural habitat in zoos or aquariums.

Two masked palm civet pups were also born at the Night Safari for the first time. While native to Singapore, sightings of this species have been rare compared with the common palm civet.

An endangered Grevy's zebra foal was born at the Singapore Zoo on Sept 30, 2021. PHOTO: ST FILE

At the Jurong Bird Park, the first critically endangered Negros bleeding-heart dove chick was hatched last November, just months after six adult birds arrived at the park in September. It represents the first conservation breeding programme outside of the Philippines, the bird's native country.

The park also hatched three critically endangered straw-headed bulbuls, previously common throughout South-east Asia but now having fallen victim to the caged-bird trade due to their melodic voices and hunted to extinction in many areas.

The critically endangered Negros bleeding-heart doves. PHOTOS: MANDAI WILDLIFE GROUP, NG SOR LUAN

Three blue-eyed cockatoos, a species vulnerable due to habitat loss and poaching, were also hatched at the park.

The Jurong Bird Park is the only zoological institution in the world to hold all three species of birds - Negros bleeding-heart doves, straw-headed bulbuls and blue-eyed cockatoos. The breeding programmes will contribute to building sustainable populations of birds that can eventually help reinforce populations in the wild.

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