Zookeepers 'hopeful' giant panda is pregnant at Ouwehands Zoo

Pandas Wu Wen and Xing Ya mated for the first time at Ouwehands Zoo in Rhenen, 18 January 2020
Pandas Wu Wen and Xing Ya mated for the first time at Ouwehands Zoo in Rhenen, 18 January 2020Ouwehands Dierenpark RhenenFacebook

Wu Wen, a giant panda housed at Ouwehands Zoo in Rhenen is likely to be pregnant, the zoo confirmed on Thursday. While zookeepers are not yet fully able to determine fully whether or not the animal is indeed pregnant, they are nevertheless watching closely at several "hopeful" signs. "Never before has she nestled in a maternity den", caregivers told NU.nl.

"So while it may still be a false alarm, these developments are certainly hopeful."

Courtship and pregnancy among giant pandas is known for being a delicate business. At a zoo in Hong Kong, for example, two giant pandas mated for the first time in over 10 years on Monday because of the tranquility brought about by the zoo's closure due to the Covid-19 pandemic, The Guardian reports.

At Ouwehands Zoo, Wu Wen had mated with the giant panda male Xing Ya back in January, which the zoo reported as being a success. By monitoring the hormone levels in the animal's urine ever since, zookeepers have been keeping an eye on Wu Wen's situation to determine whether or not a pregnancy is beginning. According to the zoo, Wu Wen's hormone levels are rising, a sign that she is indeed pregnant.

However, the park emphasizes that this could also simply be the result of a false pregnancy. The gestation period for a panda ranges from 95 to 160 days, according to the World Wildlife Foundation.

Originally from China, Wu Wen and Xing Ya have been housed in Ouwehands Zoo since 2017. They are allowed to remain in the Netherlands until 2032 owing to a loan agreement. Any giant pandas born in the Netherlands will be allowed to stay in the country for four years, before being relocated back to China.