Singapore Zoo announced on Sunday the birth of a panda from artificial insemination, a first for this species in a Southeast Asian city.
Jia Jia, a 12-year-old female giant panda, was born after being inseminated with frozen sperm of 13-year-old Kai Kai, Wildlife Reserves Singapore, which operates the island’s wildlife park, said in a statement.
After several failed attempts in recent years, zookeepers were working with Chinese experts who hoped the pandas would mate naturally, but eventually decided to resort to artificial insemination.
“Jia Jia’s first pregnancy and the birth of a baby is a milestone for us in the care of this endangered species in Singapore,” Cheng Wen-Hor, Deputy Director-General of Wildlife Sanctuaries, Singapore, said in the press release.
“This is the result of the good animal care, assisted reproductive science and absolute perseverance of our staff, along with the invaluable advice of Chinese panda experts,” he said.
The panda, which arrived in Singapore in 2012, has been loaned for 10 years by China. Experts say raising pandas – in captivity or in the wild – is very difficult, because few animals want to mate or because when they do, they don’t know how.
Another difficulty is that the gestation window is narrow because female pandas are heated only once a year, for a period of 24 to 48 hours.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) considers giant pandas a “vulnerable” species, and estimates that less than 2,000 remain in the wild.