For Ying Ying and Le Le, two 14-year-old pandas at the Ocean Park in Hong Kong, the closure of the zoo during the coronavirus pandemic may have brought the privacy they were longing for. For the first time in 13 years, the pair mated on Monday without the awkward, spying eyes of hundreds of visitors.
Giant pandas Ying Ying and Le Le succeeded in a natural mating, @Ocean_Park has announced. "We hope to bear wonderful pregnancy news to Hong Kongers this year and make further contributions to the conservation of this vulnerable species," the park's Michael Boos said. pic.twitter.com/yJCpCdVHeK
— Hong Kong Free Press (@HongKongFP) April 6, 2020
According to a statement from the zoo, “This is the first success since the two giant pandas began attempts at natural mating a decade ago, through which the Park hopes to bring to Hong Kongers exciting pregnancy news later this year while further contributing to the conservation of the vulnerable species.”
In the wild pandas have “reproductive rates comparable to some American black bear populations, which are thriving,” explains the World Wildlife Fund. But in captivity, they are poor breeders.
Michael Boos, Ocean Park’s executive director in zoological operations, said that the pandas have been exhibiting signs of attempted mating for weeks now, and that “the successful natural mating process today is extremely exciting for all of us.”
According to the WWF, giant pandas are a vulnerable species with only 1,864 wild individuals left in the world.