SINGAPORE: Panda cub Le Le says his final goodbyes before departing for China on Jan 16, 2024.

The two-year-old male panda cub will be separated from its parents, Kai Kai and Jia Jia, and placed under quarantine after making a final appearance on Dec 13. From Dec 14, Le Le will no longer be in his exhibit as he begins a 4½-week quarantine before he takes a plane to China on Jan 16, 2024. Visitors started trickling in as early as 8 am even though River Wonders, where Le Le is housed along with his parents Kai Kai and Jia Jia, opens at 10 am, a Straits Times article reported.

Speaking to the media, Mr Mike Barclay, the group chief executive of Mandai Wildlife Group, said: “Le Le has also been a wonderful ambassador for his species, helping to raise awareness regarding the threats that giant pandas face in the wild and allowing us to highlight the excellent work being undertaken in China to conserve his species.”

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He recalled the day when Mandai’s veterinarian team said Jia Jia was pregnant, just five days before giving birth on Aug 14, 2021. Since then, 1.8 million visitors from Singapore and around the world have visited Le Le, he added.  “We continue to be grateful that we have been entrusted to care for giant pandas and to be part of China’s global network of panda conservation programmes,” said Mr Barclay.

Kai Kai and Jia Jia arrived in Singapore in 2012 under a 10-year agreement, extended in September 2022 by another five years until 2027. Singapore is one of several countries to have such an agreement with China.

Singapore’s Mandai Wildlife Group said Le Le, who turned two in August, has been displaying growing signs of independence, engaging in activities such as eating, resting and playing independently. His mother, Jia Jia, has also been subtly avoiding him. This is a natural progression in the life stage of giant pandas, which are inherently solitary creatures. In the wild, such behavioural changes in mother pandas typically precede the eventual separation from their cubs.