All they needed was some privacy, apparently.
The coronavirus pandemic has likely made or broken multiple relationships across the world, and not just those among humans. According to a recent announcement from the Ocean Park in Hong Kong, two of its giant pandas finally mated after 10 years.
The two pandas, female Ying Ying and her male counterpart, Le Le, have lived together for about a decade, and despite great efforts by zoo staff to get the panda pair to mate, they've not been interested. However, when the zoo shut down to visitors in late January due to the coronavirus, it seems the pandas found a renewed interest and the pair began exhibiting strong mating behavior, according to the zoo’s recent press release. The pair finally mated naturally on April 6.
Quite exciting news, and enough to start a genuine hope for a giant panda pregnancy. Zoo staff will closely monitor Ying Yang’s hormone levels and behavioral changes to see if she starts showing signs of pregnancy. Giant pandas gestate anywhere from 72 to 324 days, and there's no way to test specifically for pregnancy, and ultrasound can only be done as early as about 17 days before birth. Ocean Park will update the public with any baby news if and when they have confirmation.
Giant pandas are bears native to China. They are a threatened and vulnerable species, with only about 1,800 left in the wild, in large part due to the loss of their natural habitat. Adult males can reach about 300 pounds, while females can reach about 200; a baby giant panda will be about the size of a stick of butter and weigh 90-130 grams, about 1/900th the size of the mother, according to the World Wildlife Fund.
Looks like the quiet time was beneficial for the long-lasting giant panda couple, and the lack of distractions made them focus on each other! Who knew?! Comment below with your thoughts.