KEEPERS AND VETS PUT PANDAS IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE AT RIVER SAFARI

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Giant pandas Kai Kai & Jia Jia enter mating season for the first time; Panda caretakers successfully trigger breeding behaviours through controlled lighting and temperature in Giant Panda Forest

Giant pandas Kai Kai and Jia Jia displayed breeding behaviours for the first time at River Safari and were brought together to mate in their den on Friday, 17 April. The 40-minute session did not appear to be successful, which is typical for first-time breeders as they may not know how to mate. PHOTO CREDITS: WILDLIFE RESERVES SINGAPORE.

Giant pandas Kai Kai & Jia Jia displayed breeding behaviours for the first time at River Safari and were brought together to mate in their den on Friday, 17 April. The 40-minute session did not appear to be successful, which is typical for first-time breeders as they may not know how to mate. PHOTO CREDITS: WILDLIFE RESERVES SINGAPORE.

SINGAPORE, 21 April 2015 Giant pandas Kai Kai & Jia Jia have officially crossed their first mating season, a cause for jubilation for caretakers at River Safari as the endangered bears are notoriously difficult to breed.

Kai Kai & Jia Jia’s development has been an interesting case for researchers as they are the first pair of giant pandas living so close to the equator. The pubescent pandas were suitable for pairing last year but did not show signs of readiness to mate. Pandas’ mating instincts are brought on by hormonal changes in response to seasonal variations, such as temperature changes and increasing day length from winter to spring.

River Safari’s keepers and vets have employed a number of measures since last November to trigger the breeding cycles of the pandas. These included varying the daylight hours and temperature in the panda exhibit to simulate the transition from winter to spring in the pandas’ homeland in Sichuan, China.

Pubescent panda Kai Kai started showing increasing levels of interest in Jia Jia following efforts by keepers and vets in altering exhibit conditions to trigger breeding behaviours. In early April, the giant pandas were frequently seen peering through the gap in the closed gate linking their exhibits, scent-marking their areas and bleating at each other. PHOTO CREDITS: WILDLIFE RESERVES SINGAPORE.

The pandas responded. Seven-year-old Kai Kai started bleating and scent-marking more frequently to attract six-year-old Jia Jia, who showed the first sign of coming into estrous on 5 April, marked by her swollen genital, restless behaviour and hormonal analysis that indicated she was in heat. The two bears were also frequently seen calling out to each other and looking through a closed gate linking their exhibit.

River Safari’s keepers and vets have employed a number of measures since November 2014 to trigger the breeding cycles of the pandas, and the bears responded well. Since 5 April, six-year-old female Jia Jia started showing signs that she was in heat. She was restless, pacing in the exhibit, rolling on the ground and attempting to breach the gate connecting hers and Kai Kai’s exhibit. PHOTO CREDITS: WILDLIFE RESERVES SINGAPORE.

River Safari’s keepers and vets have employed a number of measures since November 2014 to trigger the breeding cycles of the pandas, and the bears responded well. Since 5 April, six-year-old female Jia Jia started showing signs that she was in heat. She was restless, pacing in the exhibit, rolling on the ground and attempting to breach the gate connecting hers and Kai Kai’s exhibit. PHOTO CREDITS: WILDLIFE RESERVES SINGAPORE.

Dr Cheng Wen-Haur, Chief Life Sciences Officer, Wildlife Reserves Singapore, said: “The latest development with Kai Kai & Jia Jia spells exciting times for panda researchers. They are the first pair of giant pandas to live so close to the equator, and we have shown that we can provide the right conditions to elicit mating behaviours. Maintaining a sustainable population of these critically endangered animals under human care is a crucial part of their conservation plan.”

On the evening of 17 April, both pandas were brought together for the first time in their dens for natural mating. The 40-minute session did not appear to be successful, which is typical for first-time breeders as they may not know how to mate. A decision was made to carry out artificial insemination to increase Jia Jia’s chances of conceiving.

As it became evident that the giant pandas were ready for pairing, on 17 April, keepers brought Kai Kai and Jia Jia together for the first time in an attempt at natural mating. Kai Kai curiously sniffed Jia Jia during their first introduction without barriers. Previously, both pandas have never been in close physical contact with each other. PHOTO CREDITS: WILDLIFE RESERVES SINGAPORE.

As it became evident that the giant pandas were ready for pairing, on 17 April, keepers brought Kai Kai and Jia Jia together for the first time in an attempt at natural mating. Kai Kai curiously sniffed Jia Jia during their first introduction without barriers. Previously, both pandas have never been in close physical contact with each other. PHOTO CREDITS: WILDLIFE RESERVES SINGAPORE.

Dr Serena Oh, Assistant Director of Veterinary Services, Wildlife Reserves Singapore, said: “Panda reproduction is a notoriously complex process, with females ovulating once a year, in which they are fertile for only 24 to 36 hours. Jia Jia’s hormones started falling on Friday and we needed to move quickly to artificial insemination due to the short window when female pandas are able to conceive.”

On 18 April, male panda Kai Kai was brought into the Wildlife Healthcare and Research Centre for a health check, followed by electroejaculation which is a technique commonly used for semen collection. To ensure a higher chance of conception, the dedicated team of veterinarians and giant panda keepers carried out artificial insemination after an unsuccessful mating session. From left to right (foreground): Head Veterinarian Dr Serena Oh, male panda Kai Kai, Senior Veterinarian Dr Abraham Matthews and Veterinarian Dr Anwar Ali. PHOTO CREDITS: WILDLIFE RESERVES SINGAPORE.

On 18 April, male panda Kai Kai was brought into the Wildlife Healthcare and Research Centre for a health check, followed by electroejaculation which is a technique commonly used for semen collection. To ensure a higher chance of conception, the dedicated team of veterinarians and giant panda keepers carried out artificial insemination after an unsuccessful mating session.
From left to right (foreground): Head Veterinarian Dr Serena Oh, male panda Kai Kai, Senior Veterinarian Dr Abraham Matthews and Veterinarian Dr Anwar Ali. PHOTO CREDITS: WILDLIFE RESERVES SINGAPORE.

She continued: “In the next few months, we will continue to monitor Jia Jia’s hormone levels and conduct ultrasounds to determine if she is pregnant. We will wait and hope for the best.”

In an attempt to increase her chances for a baby panda, Jia Jia was brought into the Wildlife Healthcare and Research Centre for artificial insemination. The vets will monitor Jia Jia for signs of pregnancy in the next few months. PHOTO CREDITS: WILDLIFE RESERVES SINGAPORE.

In an attempt to increase her chances for a baby panda, Jia Jia was brought into the Wildlife Healthcare and Research Centre for artificial insemination. The vets will monitor Jia Jia for signs of pregnancy in the next few months. PHOTO CREDITS: WILDLIFE RESERVES SINGAPORE.

The gestation period for a panda is typically five months, and one or two cubs are usually born.

KOALAS ARRIVE IN SINGAPORE ZOO

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Koalas Chan, Idalia, Paddle and Pellita enter one-month quarantine

Assistant Curator Rubiah Ismail observing Pellita the koala as part of the morning routine. Rubiah, together with Junior Animal Management Officer Rachel Yeo, was on attachment in Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary for two months to learn all about koala care. On 13 April 2015, four female koalas arrived in Singapore Zoo and the quartet is currently on a month-long quarantine. PHOTO CREDITS: WILDLIFE RESERVES SINGAPORE.

Assistant Curator Rubiah Ismail observing Pellita the koala as part of the morning routine. Rubiah, together with Junior Animal Management Officer Rachel Yeo, was on attachment in Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary for two months to learn all about koala care. On 13 April 2015, four female koalas arrived in Singapore Zoo and the quartet is currently on a month-long quarantine. PHOTO CREDITS: WILDLIFE RESERVES SINGAPORE.

Singapore, 16 April 2015 – Four female koalas from Australia landed safely in Singapore on 13 April 2015, and will make Singapore Zoo their temporary home for the next six months.

Koala Idalia enjoys a spot of breakfast of eucalypt leaves flown specially into Singapore by Qantas Airways. Four female koalas arrived in Singapore Zoo on the evening of 13 April 2015 and they are now in quarantine for a month. PHOTO CREDITS: WILDLIFE RESERVES SINGAPORE

Koala Idalia enjoys a spot of breakfast of eucalypt leaves flown specially into Singapore by Qantas Airways. Four female koalas arrived in Singapore Zoo on the evening of 13 April 2015 and they are now in quarantine for a month. PHOTO CREDITS: WILDLIFE RESERVES SINGAPORE

The furry envoys, named Chan, Idalia, Paddle and Pellita, departed from their home in Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary, Brisbane, and travelled with Qantas Airways from Brisbane to Singapore. They are now housed in the zoo’s quarantine facility where they will remain for a month. The koala exhibit is expected to open to public in late May with a grand housewarming party and a series of activities for visitors to Singapore Zoo.

Koala Idalia arrived in Singapore on the evening of 13 April 2015, and is currently in quarantine with three other female koalas, Chan, Paddle and Pellita in Singapore Zoo. Members of the public can see koalas in Singapore Zoo’s Australian Outback section from late-May. PHOTO CREDITS: WILDLIFE RESERVES SINGAPORE

Koala Idalia arrived in Singapore on the evening of 13 April 2015, and is currently in quarantine with three other female koalas, Chan, Paddle and Pellita in Singapore Zoo. Members of the public can see koalas in Singapore Zoo’s Australian Outback section from late-May. PHOTO CREDITS: WILDLIFE RESERVES SINGAPORE

Ms Claire Chiang, Chairman, Wildlife Reserves Singapore, said, “We are ecstatic to host the koalas for the next six months. These lovely creatures are excellent animal ambassadors for Australia, offering a peek into the biodiversity of eucalyptus forests. They will no doubt charm zoo visitors of all ages when the exhibit officially opens.”

The quartet is a precious gift from Australia to Singapore on the occasion of Singapore’s 50th anniversary of independence, and the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Australia and Singapore.

HAND-RAISED BABY MANATEE CANOLA WINS HEARTS AT RIVER SAFARI

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Aquarists provide round-the-clock care for abandoned calf Canola and re-introduce her to manatee family

Neglected by her mother after birth, manatee calf Canola (foreground) can now be found swimming with the rest of the manatee herd at River Safari’s Amazon Flooded Forest exhibit after receiving round-the-clock care and successful reintroduction by her human caregivers. PHOTO CREDIT: WILDLIFE RESERVES SINGAPORE

Neglected by her mother after birth, manatee calf Canola (foreground) can now be found swimming with the rest of the manatee herd at River Safari’s Amazon Flooded Forest exhibit after receiving round-the-clock care and successful reintroduction by her human caregivers. PHOTO CREDIT: WILDLIFE RESERVES SINGAPORE

Singapore, 8 April 2015 – The 33kg abandoned calf in River Safari’s Amazon Flooded Forest had to be watched 24 hours for the first few days, fed every two to three hours during the first three months, and re-introduced gradually to its family – a Herculean task that the team of aquarists dived into to give the baby, named Canola, a fighting chance to live.

Born on 6 August last year, Canola is the offspring of the Flooded Forest’s largest manatee – 23-year-old Eva which measures 3.5m and weighs more than 1,100kg. For unknown reasons, Eva abandoned her latest calf despite having successfully raised eight offspring in the past. Eva is also a proud grandmother of two.

To ensure that animals in River Safari retain their parental behaviours, zoologists strive to have the parents raise their offspring. In the case of Canola, there was no other option but to have aquarists hand-raise the newborn.

Deputy Head Aquarist Keith So bottle-feeds manatee calf Canola with a special milk formula infused with canola oil when she was abandoned by her mother after birth at River Safari’s Amazon Flooded Forest. PHOTO CREDITS: WILDLIFE RESERVES SINGAPORE

Deputy Head Aquarist Keith So bottle-feeds manatee calf Canola with a special milk formula infused with canola oil when she was abandoned by her mother after birth at River Safari’s Amazon Flooded Forest. PHOTO CREDITS: WILDLIFE RESERVES SINGAPORE

Mr Wah Yap Hon, Curator, Zoology, River Safari, said: “Hand-raised animals tend to imprint on their human caregivers. The babies will attach themselves to, and learn certain behaviours from their human foster parents, and may not have a chance to bond with their family or other members of their species. In the case of Eva and Canola, we stepped in as a last resort to ensure the survival of this precious baby.”

Similar to caring for a human baby, hand-raising an animal baby requires planning and hard work. For Canola, it involved bottle-feeding every two to three hours from 8am to 10pm daily for the first three months. To increase her fat intake and substitute her mother’s highly nutritious milk, Canola was given a special milk formula infused with canola oil, which inspired her name. To ensure Canola’s safety, the aquarists moved her to a shallow holding pool to minimise the risk of other manatees crowding her and making it challenging for her to rise to the water’s surface to breathe.

Neglected by her mother after birth, manatee calf Canola undergoes a weekly weigh-in at a holding pool in River Safari where aquarists also measure her body length to monitor her growth. Canola’s last recorded weight was a healthy 74kg. PHOTO CREDITS: WILDLIFE RESERVES SINGAPORE

Neglected by her mother after birth, manatee calf Canola undergoes a weekly weigh-in at a holding pool in River Safari where aquarists also measure her body length to monitor her growth. Canola’s last recorded weight was a healthy 74kg. PHOTO CREDITS: WILDLIFE RESERVES SINGAPORE

“Under the doting care and great team effort of her human caregivers, Canola steadily gained weight and hit all the important developmental milestones of a healthy calf. By December, Canola started swimming with the rest of the herd in the main aquarium, forming close bonds with her species,” said Wah.

Deputy Head Aquarist Keith So conducts a physical check on manatee calf Canola at River Safari’s Amazon Flooded Forest, the world’s largest freshwater aquarium. PHOTO CREDITS: WILDLIFE RESERVES SINGAPORE

Deputy Head Aquarist Keith So conducts a physical check on manatee calf Canola at River Safari’s Amazon Flooded Forest, the world’s largest freshwater aquarium. PHOTO CREDITS: WILDLIFE RESERVES SINGAPORE

Since February, Canola’s caregivers have gradually cut down on her milk intake to four feedings a day to accommodate her increasing diet of vegetables. Manatees spend six to eight hours a day grazing on aquatic plants, which is why they are also known as sea cows. Adults typically consume 50-100kg of vegetation a day, equivalent to 10-15 percent of their body weight.

Manatees are listed as Vulnerable in the IUCN* Red List of Threatened Species. Their numbers have declined in the last century due to hunting pressures, entrapment in commercial nets and collisions with propellers and motorboats. Through captive breeding, River Safari hopes to contribute to the population of threatened freshwater species such as the manatee. Canola’s birth is an important one as it contributes to the captive populations of manatees in zoological institutions.

Manatee calf Canola (left), which has been melting the hearts of River Safari’s aquarists since August last year, is set to charm visitors now that she is exploring the Amazon Flooded Forest exhibit together with the manatee herd. PHOTO CREDITS: WILDLIFE RESERVES SINGAPORE

Manatee calf Canola (left), which has been melting the hearts of River Safari’s aquarists since August last year, is set to charm visitors now that she is exploring the Amazon Flooded Forest exhibit together with the manatee herd. PHOTO CREDITS: WILDLIFE RESERVES SINGAPORE

River Safari’s manatee herd of 12 comprises five males and seven females, making it one of the largest collections of manatees among zoological institutions. These slow-moving mammals can be found swimming gracefully amongst giant trees alongside other aquatic species, such as the arapaima and red-tailed catfish, in the world’s largest freshwater aquarium at the Amazon Flooded Forest.

* IUCN: International Union for the Conservation of Nature