The pair, Ying Ying and Le Le have lived together for over 13 years but like many of their species, have struggled to ‘get in the mood’.
In fact, in their over decade-long relationship, the pair’s last attempts at mating were in 2010, says Michael Boos, executive director in zoological operations and conservation at Ocean Park.
“The successful natural mating process today is extremely exciting for all of us, as the chance of pregnancy via natural mating is higher than by artificial insemination,” he explains.
Pandas are known for their low-libido – their mating season is just a few days a year – which has led to tragically low population numbers. The Worldwide Fund for Nature estimated in 2014 that there were only 1,864 giant pandas left in the world.
Zoo staff say Ying Ying and Le Le had displayed common signs of courtship before doing the deed – Ying Ying was playing in the water more and Le Le left his scent around the habitat.
Hong Kong’s Ocean Park zoo has been closed to the public since Jan 26, following the coronavirus outbreak. Since then, the animals have enjoyed time away from crowds which might have been the perfect conditions for Ying Ying and Le Le to get some alone time.
It will be a little while before zoo staff will know if the mating was successful – ultrasound scans can only detect cubs at 14 to 17 days before the birth and the full gestation period is from 72 to 324 days.