Giant pandas in Dutch zoo meet each other for first time

Pandas Wu Wen and Xing Ya meet each other for the first time, 28 March 2018
Pandas Wu Wen and Xing Ya meet each other for the first time, 28 March 2018Photo: Ouwehands Zoo

Xing Ya and Wu Wen, the two giant pandas living in Ouwehands Zoo in Rhenen, met each other for the first time "nose-to-nose" on Wednesday. They seemed to really like each other, the zoo announced on Thursday.

Now that spring has arrived, Ouwehands is preparing the two pandas for mating season. It's an exciting and stressful period, according to Ouwehands. The Wolong Giant Panda Center in China matched Xing Ya and Wu Wen based on herd-book data. "But whether the animals will really like each other, remains to be seen."

The two pandas live in separate enclosures in the zoo. Over the past time they've been allowed to get closer and closer together, but still with a separation between them. The caretakers also exchanged some objects between the enclosures, so that the pandas can get use to each other's smell.

On Wednesday the pandas met face to face. The female, Wu Wen, made her interest in Xing Ya known with squeaking sounds, and Xing Ya responded by trying to touch her. A very promising first meeting, according to Ouwehands. "We deliberately worked towards this moment. It was special to see the first nose-to-nose contact between Xing Ya and Wu Wen. I am very happy with the behavior of both animals", Jose Kok, zoology manager at the zoo, said.

Reproduction is complex for giant pandas. The female is only fertile for a short period, between two and seven days. Wu Wen is a young adult and could be fertile once a year from this year. The zoo regularly checks the hormone balance in her urine to see if she is in her fertility period.

Xing Ya is still a bit young to mate, but Wu Wen's smell might boost his sexual maturity. To make sure he is ready, panda caretakers have been training him to stand on his hind legs regularly so he can build up muscle. If the time is ripe, he will at least be strong enough, according to the zoo.