SINGAPORE (The Straits Times/Asia News Network): Le Le, the first panda cub born in Singapore, will be returned to China in December.
The much beloved panda will say goodbye to fans here on Nov 20, when a farewell event will be held at the River Wonders’ Pavilion Capital Giant Panda Forest exhibit.
Le Le will then be quarantined until he leaves for China in the “second half of December”, the Mandai Wildlife Group said in a statement on Friday.
It added that Le Le has crossed his second birthday and is growing more independent.
In his next stage of life, the panda will return to China to “fulfil the important mission of contributing to the conservation of the giant panda species”, said the statement.
The cub has shown increasing signs of independence such as eating, resting and playing on his own, the statement said.
His mother, Jia Jia, has also started to show “slight avoidance behaviours” such as moving away when he approaches. In the wild, behavioural changes in mother pandas lead to the eventual rejection of their cubs.
“All of this is part and parcel of the life stage progression of giant pandas, which are solitary by nature,” said Mandai Wildlife Group.
Under the terms of Chinese panda loan agreements, cubs born on foreign soil are generally returned to China when they turn two.
China loans these animals to foreign countries as a goodwill gesture, an effort that has become popularly known as “panda diplomacy”.
Le Le was born to parents Kai Kai and Jia Jia on Aug 14, 2021, after many attempts by the duo to conceive.
In the months to come, the Mandai Wildlife Group and experts from China will ensure Le Le is in “optimal condition” for his journey in December. The preparation will include vaccinations, health assessments and conditioning.
Meanwhile, his parents will remain in Singapore at River Wonders under the care of Mandai Wildlife Group, which will continue to work closely with China to ensure their well-being and plan for future breeding cycles.
To prepare for the separation of Jia Jia and Le Le, Mandai Wildlife Group said its animal care team has since February been conditioning Le Le in a new private den, away from his mother.
The team has also been carrying out feedings in different dens since August.
The statement also said the mother panda and her offspring will also soon be exhibited at different times – viewers will be able to see Le Le from 10am to 2pm in the exhibit, and Jia Jia from 2pm to 6pm.
“Since his birth in 2021, Le Le has captured not only our hearts, but also that of the entire nation and overseas visitors, giving us many joyful moments as we watched him grow,” said Mandai Wildlife Group deputy chief executive and chief life sciences officer Cheng Wen-Haur.
From Oct 6 to 31, there will be a 40 per cent discount for the one adult and one child admission bundle to River Wonders.