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Photo credit: WILDLIFE RESERVES SINGAPORE

Community engagements will be held by WRS to name new panda cub

The panda cub, whose gender is still unknown, will be named before it is 100 days old.

Khalisa Zulkiflee

Creative writer and comedian on the side.


Published: 27 August 2021, 12:12 PM

Community engagements will be held by the Wildlife Reserves Singapore (WRS) when it’s time to name the new panda cub born to giant pandas Kai Kai and Jia Jia.

This will allow Singaporeans to take part in the naming of the panda cub. The panda cub will be given a name before it is 100 days old, in accordance with Chinese traditions, WRS shared in a virtual media briefing on Thursday (Aug 26). 

“There are so many good suggestions coming in, so there are a few possibilities, potentially we’ll shortlist a few and people to vote,” Deputy CEO of WRS and Chief Life Sciences Officer Dr Cheng Wen-Haur said. 

Dr Cheng added that there will be a need to check with their partners from China, as a key consideration is to avoid any repetition of names with other giant pandas. 

WRS also provided updates on all three pandas. 

As Jia Jia cares and nurses her cub in her custom-made, climate-controlled maternity den, the panda team at WRS, headed by Animal Care Officer Trisha Tay, is focusing on supporting Jia Jia, who hasn’t been eating, on her journey as a mother. 

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Panda moms do not eat while caring for their young, a trait exhibited by Jia Jia. PHOTO CREDIT: WILDLIFE RESERVES SINGAPORE

 

“Her not eating for this period of time is perfectly normal, because this happens in the wild as well as in the China panda bases,” said Trisha.

Her carers have been providing her with electrolytes and glucose solution to ensure she’s kept well-hydrated. She is also given a bowl of water and fresh bamboo leaves everyday.

Although the carers have not been able to examine the cub, the close relationship they share with Jia Jia has allowed them to observe significant details about the mother-cub duo, such as Jia Jia properly suckling the cub, licking the cub to stimulate defecation and cleaning the cub. 

They have also been able to determine that the cub is growing well as it has been feeding, sleeping and defecating well.

Trisha said Jia Jia is a “very smart bear” who has been “efficient” in learning how to nurse, clean and care for her cub without external help.

There are no plans to put the cub in an outdoor exhibit as yet, as the panda carers haven’t had the chance to medically examine it. This is because Jia Jia is still protective of the cub and will let it go only when the cub becomes more independent, which usually happens when it is four months old.

As such, the gender of the cub is still unknown.

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WRS added that father Kai Kai is more interested in his food than the birth of his child. PHOTO CREDIT: WILDLIFE RESERVES SINGAPORE

 

It is likely that all three pandas will not be reunited, as pandas lead solitary lives and do not often mingle with the exception of during mating season. 

WRS also revealed that they will try to breed Jia Jia again two years later, with help from the panda team in China who are more experienced with breeding pandas reaching or in geriatric age.

At around the same time, the panda cub will be moving to China to join the breeding population there after it becomes less dependent on its mother. This move is also partly due to “housing shortage” in the zoo, says Dr Cheng

 

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The cub has been growing bigger and black pigmentation is spreading on its fur. PHOTO CREDIT: WILDLIFE RESERVES SINGAPORE

 

Acknowledging the excitement of members of the public, WRS has launched Panda Sneak Peak, an hour-long video broadcast of Jia Jia and her baby in their maternity den. 

Every day, a video will be uploaded daily at 4pm on YouTube for the public to watch the cub’s growth in its mother’s protective arms. This video will also be available at River Safari where a zookeeper will be explaining what is shown in the video. 


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