Possible panda pregnancy: Jia Jia's keepers leaving nothing to chance

Prof Ng Soon Chye (extreme left) and Dr Serena Oh (in blue) carefully inseminating Jia Jia with Kai Kai's sperm.
Prof Ng Soon Chye (extreme left) and Dr Serena Oh (in blue) carefully inseminating Jia Jia with Kai Kai's sperm.PHOTO: WILDLIFE RESERVES SINGAPORE
Jia Jia positioning herself so that Keeper Sim Pei Ying can collect her urine.
Jia Jia positioning herself so that Keeper Sim Pei Ying can collect her urine.PHOTO: WILDLIFE RESERVES SINGAPORE

SINGAPORE - Keepers at the River Safari are hoping to have good news to share, after artificial insemination was carried out on the giant pandas to maximise chances of breeding.

Kai Kai and Jia Jia - Singapore's only giant panda couple - were put together for natural mating on March 30, following which artificial insemination was carried out.

Professor Ng Soon Chye, an obstetrics and gynaecology specialist internationally renowned for his expertise in reproductive medicine, assisted River Safari's veterinary team during the insemination process.

Jia Jia, the female panda, has been receiving special care, with the team of keepers at River Safari's Giant Panda Forest conducting daily cub retrieval and urine collection conditioning sessions for it, in preparation for a possible arrival of a baby panda, Wildlife Reserves Singapore said in a press release on Friday (June 23).

Urine collection conditioning allows the keepers to collect uncontaminated urine samples from Jia Jia to monitor her hormonal levels - a gradual increase in progesterone levels indicates a possible pregnancy or pseudo pregnancy.

The keepers also practise cub retrieval, which will help Jia Jia get used to humans handling her cub for health checks, and supplementary or foster care if needed.

The outcome will be known only between August and September, as giant pandas have delayed implantation. The vets can confirm if Jia Jia is pregnant only during the later part of the panda's gestation period.

In the meantime, Jia Jia is on folic acid, a pre-natal and pregnancy supplement, and her keepers are holding their breath.