Kai Kai, Jia Jia & Le Le (Singapore Pandas)
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. 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.
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. As of 2022, there are only 1,864 pandas left in the wild.
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.
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. Kai Kai has a pink nose and a small tuft of fur on his head, which earned him the moniker “Onion Head”.
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.
Kai Kai means “victorious” in Mandarin, and Jia Jia means “beautiful” in Mandarin. Both their names were chosen out of a nationwide naming contest.
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.
Kai Kai and Jia Jia had their first attempt at mating on April 17, 2015, which was 3 years after their arrival in Singapore. They have mated 7 times over the course of their stay here, and it’s a challenging task as pandas only have a window of 2-3 days to get pregnant.
|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)||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. 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.
Birth of cub Le Le
The seventh mating attempt led to the conception and birth of a baby panda cub on 14 Aug 2021, who weighed around 200g.
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.” 
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.
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, 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.
Extension of stay
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. However, Wildlife Reserves Singapore is speaking to China authorities on extending Kai Kai and Jia Jia’s stay in Singapore.
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