Mother's Day: Jia Jia eases into her role as mum of first panda cub born in Singapore

Jia Jia enjoying bamboo shoots, which are part of her Mother's Day treat, with Le Le on her left. ST PHOTO: NG SOR LUAN
Jia Jia and Le Le sharing an intimate moment in the main exhibit at the River Wonders. PHOTO: MANDAI WILDLIFE GROUP
Jia Jia with her Mother's Day treat with Le Le on the right. ST PHOTO: NG SOR LUAN

SINGAPORE - When Jia Jia became a parent on Aug 14 last year, animal care officer Trisha Tay and her team at Mandai Wildlife Group's River Wonders were certain that the giant panda would be a good mother.

Minutes after giving birth to Le Le, Jia Jia picked up her cub gently, and cradled, licked and cared for it.

Despite appearing exhausted after labour, she was attentive to her cub's cries and her maternal instincts soon kicked in.

Ms Tay, who leads the panda team, recalled the first time both the mother and cub entered the main exhibit area of the Giant Panda Forest zone of the park on March 10.

She said: "When we first released Le Le into the exhibit area, she (Jia Jia) was following him and watching out for him. She was not concerned about eating."

Unfamiliar with the new environment, Le Le inevitably had his falls and tumbles.

Fortunately, he has a protective mother who keeps a watchful eye on him.

Ms Tay said: "When he (Le Le) took his first tumble down the slope, he looked shocked and so, he vocalised it. Jia Jia dove straight down to rescue him and checked to make sure that he was okay."

As a mother of two children, Ms Tay said she can relate to Jia Jia.

The 38-year-old said: "When you first take your kid to childcare and school, you are really anxious. But after a while, you learn to relax and be more comfortable. You know they need to gain independence and that is how they grow."

The highly active and inquisitive Le Le has been learning from his mother essential survival skills such as climbing trees.

At the same time, the duo enjoy playing together in the exhibit area and at the back of house - areas not open to the public.

Jia Jia having her regular food in her enclosure after her Mother's Day treats. ST PHOTO: NG SOR LUAN
Le Le makes his official debut with his mother Jia Jia at the Giant Panda Forest exhibit on March 10, 2022. PHOTO: ST FILE

Describing their interaction, Ms Tay said: "She would climb up and then as he climbs up, she would push him down. It's like a game to them. It's quite heartwarming and fun to see that playful behaviour between the two of them."

Giant panda cubs typically rely on their mothers' milk as part of their main diet until they are one year old. They stay with their mothers until they are around 18 months old.

Besides his mother's milk, Le Le is also fed fruits and pellets, and he has begun to nibble on bamboo.

Even as Jia Jia grows accustomed to her role as a mother, she will not let her guard down.

Ms Tay said: "She is still very attentive to his cries and his needs, so she does look out for him here and there. But definitely, she is more relaxed now."

SPH Brightcove Video
To mark Jia Jia's first Mother's Day, the Singapore Zoo has prepared a present, bamboo shoots and a banner for the giant panda. Animal care officer Trisha Tay also shared how well Jia Jia has performed in terms of taking care of Le Le.

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