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Singapore-born panda cub’s travel to China postponed

SINGAPORE (CNA) – The first Singapore-born panda’s departure to China has been delayed to January 16, 2024, giving visitors to his exhibit more time to say their goodbyes.

Two-year-old Le Le will make his final public appearance at the Pavilion Capital Giant Panda Forest in the River Wonders park on December 13. He will then be quarantine from the next day until his departure date, said Mandai Wildlife Group on Friday.

The giant panda cub was originally set to leave for China in the second half of December, with a farewell event held on November 20.

Asked by CNA for the reasons behind Le Le’s deferred departure, a spokesperson said Mandai Wildlife Group and the China Wildlife Conservation Association were “in the midst” of working out arrangements for the panda’s trip.

Upon arriving in China, “Le Le will officially join the country’s conservation programme to safeguard his species”, said Mandai Wildlife Group.

“In the meantime, his care team is helping him prepare for a smooth travel.”

Le Le has received two vaccinations and will undergo thorough health checks during quarantine, said Mandai Wildlife Group.

A customised crate is being constructed for his journey to China. Once completed, Le Le will be conditioned through positive reinforcement training – such as rewarding him with food – to encourage entering and getting accustomed to being in the crate.

This training will aid the keepers in the transfer of Le Le, “making it as stress-free as possible on the day his flight departs”, said Mandai Wildlife Group.

The organisation said it is also working closely with national carrier Singapore Airlines to ensure a comfortable journey for Le Le to his new home.

Apart from Le Le’s flight, preparations have also been made to transition to separation from his mother Jia Jia.

Mandai Wildlife Group said Jia Jia had already started to exhibit “avoidance behaviours” such as moving away when her cub approaches.

“In the last month, she has been observed to display initial signs of rejection, like chasing Le Le away,” said the group, adding that this was a natural progression for the giant panda species and that Jia Jia will eventually reject her cub.

Leading up to Le Le’s departure, the bears will split time in their exhibit, with Le Le on display from 10am to 2pm and his mother from 2pm to 6pm.

Jia Jia, 15 and her mate Kai Kai, 16, will remain in Singapore at River Wonders. An agreement was signed in 2022 to extend their stay for five more years.

An ongoing farewell campaign to commemorate Le Le’s time in Singapore – including photo points and a fan mailbox at River Wonders – will continue to his last day in public on December 13.

There will also be what Mandai Wildlife Group called a “final farewell party” on Le Le’s last day in his exhibit.

This handout image provided by Mandai Wildlife Group shows Le Le, Singapore’s first giant panda cub. PHOTO: CNA