‘Le Le’: Singapore Bids Farewell to China-bound Panda Cub

Wed Dec 13 2023
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SINGAPORE: Singaporeans gathered to bid farewell to Le Le, a two-year-old panda cub, as he prepared to embark on a journey to China to join the country’s breeding program. Le Le, the first panda born in Singapore, made his final public appearance at the River Wonders wildlife park before a month-long quarantine prior to his departure.

During his last public appearance, dozens of visitors watched Le Le wander around his enclosure, munching on bamboo and carrot sticks hidden by keepers under paper planes and inside cardboard suitcases. Among the well-wishers was Lucilla Teoh, a self-professed “panda-holic,” who considered herself Le Le’s “grand-aunty” and expressed mixed emotions about his departure, emphasizing the importance of his role in panda conservation.

Le Le, born in 2021 via artificial insemination, is the offspring of Jia Jia and Kai Kai, who arrived in Singapore in 2012 on loan from China. The panda cub’s departure is part of the agreement between Singapore and China, where offspring are sent back to China after reaching independence to contribute to the country’s panda breeding program.

Panda reproduction is known to be challenging, both in captivity and the wild, making Le Le’s departure significant for conservation efforts. The difficulty lies in pandas’ limited mating behavior and the narrow window for conception, as females are in heat only once a year for a brief period.

Le Le is scheduled to travel to Chengdu on January 16 in a custom-made crate aboard a Singapore Airlines Boeing 747-400F freighter plane. China, known for “panda diplomacy,” lends these iconic animals to various countries to foster diplomatic relations. The global panda population is estimated to be around 1,860 in the wild and about 600 in captivity across panda centers, zoos, and wildlife parks worldwide, according to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).

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