Kai Kai, Jia Jia & Le Le (Singapore Pandas)

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Kai Kai, Jia Jia & newborn cub Le Le. Photo from Happy Marketer and Mandai Wildlife Group.

Kai Kai (凯凯) and Jia Jia (嘉嘉) are the panda residents of River Wonders (formerly River Safari), who arrived in Singapore from China in 2012 with a 10-year loan given by Chinese authorities.[1] This is part of a collaboration between the China Wildlife Conservation Association and Wildlife Reserves Singapore to mark the 20th anniversary of China-Singapore relations.[2]

CapitaLand is the main conservation donor of the programme, which aims to increase awareness for panda conservation and establish a breeding programme for these rare animals.[3] As of 2022, there are only 1,864 pandas left in the wild.[4]

Background[edit | edit source]

Kai Kai and Jia Jia hail from Ya’an Bifengxia Panda Base, which is two hours away from Chengdu City in China’s Szechuan province.[5]

Kai Kai posing for the camera. Photo from Wildlife Reserves Singapore.

Kai Kai is a male giant panda who was born on 14 September 2007. Initially, he was shy and would prefer to dine solo. Now, he has become more outgoing and active, while remaining amiable and obedient. His favourite activities include eating carrots and licking his paws.[5] Kai Kai has a pink nose and a small tuft of fur on his head, which earned him the moniker “Onion Head”.[6]

Jia Jia hanging out in a tree. Photo from Wildlife Reserves Singapore.

Jia Jia is a female giant panda who was born on 3 September 2008. She has a black nose. Her personality is playful as well as affectionate. Her favourite activities include eating, as well as climbing trees, sometimes even bringing bamboo up to a tree to eat.[5]

Kai Kai means “victorious” in Mandarin, and Jia Jia means “beautiful” in Mandarin. Both their names were chosen out of a nationwide naming contest.[6]

Habitat[edit | edit source]

Both Kai Kai & Jia Jia stay in Southeast Asia’s largest giant panda exhibit, located at the Yangtze River zone of River Wonders. The exhibit is set at a temperature of 18-22 degrees Celsius with controlled humidity, and is designed to replicate a bamboo forest with streams, trees and boulders for an environment similar to a panda’s natural habitat.[5]

Exhibit at the Yangtze River zone, which also has other wildlife like the giant salamander and red panda. Photo from Changi Recommends.

Mating[edit | edit source]

Kai Kai and Jia Jia had their first attempt at mating on April 17, 2015, which was 3 years after their arrival in Singapore. [7]They have mated 7 times over the course of their stay here,[8] and it’s a challenging task as pandas only have a window of 2-3 days to get pregnant.[9]

Mating attempt[10][11] Remarks
1st attempt (April 2015) 7-year-old Kai Kai starts bleating and scentmarking to attract 6-year-old Jia Jia. They are brought together to mate naturally. Jia Jia undergoes artificial insemination as well.
2nd attempt (2016) Artificial insemination is tried with natural mating. A nest box to house possible cubs is also provided.
3rd attempt (2017) Artificial insemination is also tried with natural mating. Jia Jia was also conditioned for urine collection.
4th attempt (2018) Artificial insemination was tried with no attempts for natural mating.
5th attempt (2019) Both pandas started supplements to boost reproductive ability. Artificial insemination conducted twice only.
6th attempt (March 2020)[12] Natural methods used. Giant panda enclosure closed to give the pandas some privacy.
7th attempt (April 2021) Both natural and artificial insemination methods were used. Ultrasound scans at a later date showed a foetus.

As part of efforts to encourage mating, Kai Kai was trained with squat exercises to strengthen his hind quarters and improve success rates. He was also shown videos of pandas mating.

As for Jia Jia, she was given folic acid prenatal and pregnancy supplements as well as conditioned daily for cub retrieval and urine collection. The urine is used to monitor and confirm pregnancy.[6] Keepers also got both pandas to swap exhibits, as smelling the scent of another gender would stimulate hormones and mating instincts.

Both artificial insemination and natural methods were also attempted.[7]

Birth of cub Le Le[edit | edit source]

Milestones of a giant panda cub. Photo from River Safari.

The seventh mating attempt led to the conception and birth of a baby panda cub on 14 Aug 2021, who weighed around 200g.[6]

When the cub was first born, mother Jia Jia would wake up to nurse the cub, clean it and help it defecate.

Keepers were initially worried over how she would respond to the cub:

“We were worried that she (would be) either possibly aggressive, she might abandon the cub, or she would take good care of it ... (When) we saw her picking up the cub so gently and just seeing her care for it, it was really a big sigh of relief for all of us.” [13]

The first two weeks, Jia Jia did not eat much and had to be fed an electrolyte glucose solution to keep her hydrated. After 16 days, she started eating leaves again.[14]

Newborn cub Le Le opens up eyes for the first time. Photo from Wildlife Reserves Singapore.

The cub opened its eyes 40 days after birth, and weighed 1.87kg then. It was also revealed to be a male cub, and the public was invited to suggest a name for him before his 100th-day milestone on Nov 21, 2021.

After options suggested like Hong Hong, Le Le, Xin Le, Xin Yang or Xin Yuan[15], he was finally named Le Le (叻叻) in December 2021, with the name garnering 31,000 out of the 64,000 public votes. The character ‘Le’叻 is derived from ‘Shi Le Po’ (石叻坡), an old Chinese name for Singapore in its trading days.[16]

Extension of stay[edit | edit source]

Le Le is set to return to China upon maturity at two years old under the terms of the original panda loan agreement with the China Wildlife Conservation Association.[17] However, Wildlife Reserves Singapore is speaking to China authorities on extending Kai Kai and Jia Jia’s stay in Singapore.[18]

Panda-stic Party (August 4 2022 to Sep 11 2022)[edit | edit source]

In celebration of panda Le Le’s first birthday, River Wonders will be organising a month-long event, “Panda-stic Party”.[19] Besides visiting the panda cub at the Giant Panda Forest for Giant Panda Family Playtime (from 11:45am to 6:15pm), here are some activities that visitors can expect to participate in:[19]

  • Panda Mascot Meet & Greet at the Boat Plaza (only from Friday to Sunday, and on the eve and day of Public Holidays).
  • Pen-a-wish For Le Le - for just $2, pen down their well wishes at the River Wonders Bridge.
  • DIY and create a tote bag or terrarium for $10.
  • Discover Your Panda Personality - complete a quiz and redeem a free collectible.
  • Amazing Encounters with River Stars - stand a chance to interact with Capybaras, Common Palm Civets, or  the park’s Fennec Fox.

During this period, the park will be open beyond its usual hours, up until 9:30pm. As such, visitors will be able to enjoy firework shows at 7:30pm, 8:30pm, and 9:30 pm.[20] A day-to-night package will also be made available for the event, with admissions from $36.[19]

References/Citations[edit | edit source]

  1. Chia, Osmond. “An eye-opening moment: Kai Kai and Jia Jia's panda cub opens eyes for the first time”. The Straits Times. September 24, 2021. Accessed 12 January 2022.
  2. Popatlal, Asha. “China to loan two pandas to Singapore for 10-year period”. Wild Singapore. November 11, 2009. Accessed 12 January 2022.
  3. CapitaLand welcomes the birth of Singapore’s first baby panda by Kai Kai and Jia Jia”. CapitaLand. August 15, 2021. Accessed 12 January 2022.
  4. Pulling the panda back from the brink”. WWF. Accessed 12 January 2022.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 Conservation Education.” CapitaLand Hope Foundation. Accessed 12 January 2022.
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 Mandai River Wonders: Giant Panda”. Mandai River Wonders. Accessed 12 January 2022.
  7. 7.0 7.1 Tan, Fiona. “S'pore River Safari pandas Jia Jia & Kai Kai to start mating for the 7th time”. Mothership. April 22, 2021. Accessed 12 January 2022.
  8. Seng, Sabrina. “S’pore River Safari Pandas Need Private Moment During Mating Season, Bear With Closure Till 26 Apr.MustShareNews. April 22, 2021. Accessed 12 January 2022.
  9. D.C. Panda May Be Pregnant: Why Is Breeding Them So Tough?National Geographic. August 21, 2015. Accessed 12 January 2022.
  10. Ang, Rosalind.“7th time lucky: The first giant panda cub born in Singapore.” The Straits Times. August 16, 2021. Accessed 12 January 2022.
  11. Kim, Irone. “Here’s A Timeline Of Giant Panda Kai Kai And Jia Jia’s Adorable Life Together In River Safari And Updates On Their Newborn Panda Cub.” Alvinology. August 27, 2021. Accessed 12 January 2022.
  12. Zheng, Zhangxin. “S'pore River Safari pandas, Kai Kai & Jia Jia, attempt to make babies for 6th time.Mothership. March 30, 2020. Accessed 12 January 2022.
  13. Co, Cindy. “We were worried’: Kai Kai and Jia Jia’s keeper on panda cub birth.” CNA. August 19, 2021. Accessed 12 January 2022.
  14. Neo Cai Chin. “Squats, pee swaps and the ‘roller-coaster ride’ of making a panda baby in Singapore.CNA. September 25, 2021. Accessed 12 January 2022.
  15. Koh, Maxine. “Singapore’s panda cub is turning 100 days old and he's finally getting a name in December”. CNA. November 19, 2021. Accessed 12 January 2022.
  16. Say hello to ‘Le Le (叻叻)’: Singapore-born giant panda cub's name picked.Yahoo!News. December 29, 2021. Accessed 12 January 2022.
  17. Goh Yan Han. “Singapore's first panda cub named Le Le; public can see him twice a day from Thursday.” The Straits Times. December 29, 2021. Accessed 12 January 2022
  18. Co, Cindy. “Baby panda to return to China after it becomes independent; gender to be revealed soon.” CNA. August 26, 2021. Accessed 12 January 2022.
  19. 19.0 19.1 19.2 Mandai Wildlife Reserve. “Panda-stic Party”. River Wonders. n.d. Accessed 25 July 2022.
  20. Kasman, Kassandra. “River Wonders to host a month-long celebration event for Le Le’s first birthday”. Youthopia.sg. July 21, 2022. Accessed 25 July 2022.