When can we see Jia Jia’s cub and know its gender? These questions and more answered

After trying for a baby for the last six years, Singapore’s resident giant pandas Kai Kai and Jia Jia, which are on a 10-year loan from China, have finally welcomed a cub 12 days ago (on 14 August 2021).

This pregnancy didn’t come easy. As the pandas entered their seventh breeding season in April this year, Wildlife Reserves Singapore (WRS)’s panda care team worked closely with China Conservation and Research Center for Giant Panda (CCRCGP) throughout the period.

It was eventually decided that artificial insemination was performed on Jia Jia when natural mating did not occur, so that she can improve her chances of becoming a mother before the fertile period closed.

Jia Jia and cub. Image credit to Wildlife Reserves Singapore (2)
Image credit: Wildlife Reserves Singapore

Pandas are notorious for their reluctance to breed in captivity and their gestation period, which ranges from 90 to 180 days, when the fertilised egg floats freely in the mother’s uterus before getting implanted, makes successful pregnancy even harder.

Thankfully, 2021 is the year Singapore finally receives good news from Jia Jia. After the vets noted the thickening of Jia Jia’s cervix wall and fluid in her right uterus in late July, they continued to schedule ultrasound sessions in the hopes of confirming the pregnancy.

A strong heartbeat was detected on 10 August. The pregnancy was confirmed following another ultrasound on 12 August and Jia Jia’s keepers started round-the-clock monitoring. Jia Jia gave birth at 7.50am on 14 August.

As everyone in Singapore rejoices at this news, many curious questions remained unanswered:

  • What’s the cub’s gender?
  • What will the cub’s name be?
  • When will we be able to see the cub?

AVENUE ONE attended a press conference held by Wildlife Reserves Singapore that will answer these questions and more.

How are Jia Jia and the cub doing?

Jia Jia and cub on 19 August 2021. Image credit to Wildlife Reserves Singapore (1)
Image credit: Wildlife Reserves Singapore

The focus of Jia Jia’s care team is to support her as she nurses and bonds with her cub. Based on the Chinese experts’ data on the general growth and weight in cubs, Jia Jia’s first born would be an estimated 380 grams.

Jia Jia has not been eating since giving birth, which is a norm for new panda mums. Her carers have been providing her with electrolytes and glucose solution via syringe to keep her well hydrated. Jia Jia continues to be presented with fresh bamboo leaves several times a day, should she feel like eating again.

Thanks to the close relationship between the carers and Jia Jia, WRS staff were able to observe significant details such as Jia Jia properly suckling the cub, licking the cub to stimulate defecation and cleaning the cub.

The new mother is also settling into an efficient routine of nursing and caring for the cub, enabling both of them to rest for longer periods of time.

Jia Jia is beginning to move about the den more. Meanwhile, the cub’s markings such as the dark colouration around the hind legs, back, eyes and ears are becoming more prominent.

And if you’re wondering about Kai Kai and how he’s taking to his new status as a father, the WRS team says that while his carers shared the news with him, it’s unlikely he understands and shows more interest in his food instead.

What’s the gender of the baby panda?

Panda cub at Day 10 (23 Aug 2021). Image credit to Wildlife Reserves Singapore
The cub at Day 10. Image credit: Wildlife Reserves Singapore

Well, the truth is nobody knows – not even the zookeepers.

Mama panda Jia Jia has been taking care of the cub closely and protecting her baby, which makes it impossible even for the zookeepers to get close enough to identify the gender of the cub.

This is why the gender of the baby panda hasn’t been disclosed!

However, hang in there for another four to six weeks, when the zookeepers will be able to send the cub for its full health check and that’s when the gender of the baby will be ascertained as well.

What’s the name of the baby panda?

Jia Kai? Kai Jia? We don’t know yet.

Wildlife Reserves Singapore has a few names in mind – which they didn’t share with us – and will only decide on it once the gender of the baby panda has been determined.

The organisation shared that they may get the public involved in the selection of the shortlisted names – so we hope you’re ready to eventually cast your vote!

When can we see the cub?

Jia Jia and cub. Image credit to Wildlife Reserves Singapore (1)
Image credit: Wildlife Reserves Singapore

According to WRS, the cub has to be sufficiently independent before it can be a part of the exhibit at the zoo. This will take at least another four months.

We did some simple math and it looks like the earliest we will be able to see the cub in action will be around Christmas this year!

In the meantime, if you’d like to see Jia Jia and her cub at the maternity den, you can visit WRS’ YouTube channel for one hour of panda content at 4pm every day. This is a curated feed (not a live feed) for you to possibly catch a rare glimpse of the baby panda in Jia Jia’s protective embrace.

You can also follow WRS’ Facebook page for more panda updates.

Will the cub be made permanent resident in Singapore?

As much as we hope for the cub to be in Singapore forever, unfortunately as part of the 10-year loan agreement with China, the baby panda will have to be returned to China once it turns two, which is the age when pandas are considered independent and will leave their mums.

The natural biology of the giant panda species in the key reason why the cub will head home to rejoin China’s panda programme and to start its own family in the future.