Panda bears mating

The pandas Ying Ying and Le Le were caught by the cameras at Hong Kong’s Ocean Park Zoo while mating. The images document the first natural mating of these two specimens in 10 years.

It was early April, and the cameras at Hong Kong’s Ocean Park Zoo were picking up unusual images: the pandas Ying Ying and 14-year-old Le Le were mating. It was the first time that park managers had documented this behavior in a decade of failed attempts.

Since the end of March, say those responsible for the installation, Ying Ying began to spend more time playing in the water, while Le Le began to leave the areas impregnated with his scent marks and was more receptive to his partner, compatible behaviors with which these creatures have during the breeding season, which occurs once a year, between the months of March and May.

The park veterinarians, who monitor the behavior of the pandas, considered that they had reached the peak of the time of jealousy, and, with it, of the possibilities of a natural mating, something that finally came to everyone’s surprise. “Male and female giant pandas are sexually mature from seven and five years of age, respectively,” Hellen Yeung, a member of the Ocean Park management team, told National Geographic Spain.

Since Ying Ying and Le Le arrived in Hong Kong in 2007, the park managers had carried out numerous artificial mating attempts since 2010, although none of them were successful.

“The peak of the female’s heat period occurs between 24 to 48 hours. Since 2010 we have been taking advantage of this crucial moment to inseminate Ying Ying with Le Le’s sperm in order to increase her chances of pregnancy, but in no case was there a response, “Yeung explains.