Are There Any Unexpected Benefits to Social Isolation?

As much of the world stays separated, two very special creatures finally got together.

Although their efforts were ultimately unsuccessful, two giant pandas at Ocean Park in Hong Kong finally mated when the zoo closed to visitors due to the coronavirus pandemic in April 2020.
Although their efforts were ultimately unsuccessful, two giant pandas at Ocean Park in Hong Kong finally mated when the zoo closed to visitors due to the coronavirus pandemic in April 2020.

Ying Ying and Le Le, giant pandas that have shared their living space in a Hong Kong zoo for more than a decade, had been nothing more than friends until April 2020, when they finally mated. According to Ocean Park zoo officials, years of trial and error may have been bolstered by the fact that the zoo was closed to visitors because of the coronavirus pandemic. The quiet and solitude could have been the perfect environment for the pandas, zoo officials suggested.

Unfortunately, according to reports in September, Ying Ying did not become pregnant, despite showing many signs over the summer that the mating had been successful. Still, the fact that the notoriously low-in-libido creatures finally mated offers promise for the future, according to Ocean Park Executive Director Michael Boos. "We hope Ying Ying and Le Le will mate naturally again in the next breeding season," he said.

Although artificial insemination remains possible, animal conservationists say natural mating is greatly preferred.

The unusual world of the giant panda:

  • A giant panda's eyes contain vertical slits for their pupils, much like a cat's eyes.

  • Giant pandas famously love bamboo and chew on the stuff for up to 16 hours every day.

  • At birth, giant pandas are pink, furless, and blind; it takes about three weeks for them to become black and white.

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    • Although their efforts were ultimately unsuccessful, two giant pandas at Ocean Park in Hong Kong finally mated when the zoo closed to visitors due to the coronavirus pandemic in April 2020.
      Although their efforts were ultimately unsuccessful, two giant pandas at Ocean Park in Hong Kong finally mated when the zoo closed to visitors due to the coronavirus pandemic in April 2020.