Text and images by the Mandai Wildlife Group
Le Le, the first Giant Panda cub to be born in Singapore, has just turned one (on the 14th August) and is stepping into his first year with a taste for solid food and new positive reinforcement skills learned at panda-garten.
His birthday festivities started early at River Wonders when his care team presented him and supermom Jia Jia with a lovingly designed three-tier ice cake embedded with carrots, bamboo and edible flowers, and topped with apple slices.
Le Le’s birthday celebration continued into the weekend – and visitors who were keen to catch him cavorting with his cool ice cake had the opportunity to do so at the Giant Panda Forest on 14 August at 10am.
The celebrations have been magical and it looks like Le Le had the best day!
Over the past year, Singapore’s littlest panda has made a remarkable transformation from a 200-gram mostly hairless and helpless infant into an over 33kg furry and feisty bundle of energy, and continues to make steady progress in his growth and development.
While still mainly reliant on mom’s milk, he was offered pellets and carrots on 10 June 2022, and has begun to nibble on these, in addition to bamboo leaves and shoots, in small quantities. Panda cubs start to wean at around 12 months old but may still continue to nurse for up to 18 months.
As Le Le embarked into the world of solid food with gusto, his care team also took the opportunity to begin his positive reinforcement training (PRT) journey on 7 July 2022. These sessions are in preparation for routine medical procedures in the near future to facilitate overall animal care and health monitoring. PRT makes use of rewards to encourage an animal to repeat a desired behaviour. In Le Le’s case, his carers are starting off by getting him to respond to a target. When he completes the behaviour correctly, he is given a treat in the form of a piece of carrot or pellet.
Like any young child, Le Le still gets easily distracted so training lasts no more than a few minutes at a time, for now. These PRT sessions will be gradually lengthened and will make upcoming health checks and procedures easier and less stressful for Le Le and his team of carers.
Le Le may be slowly increasing his skills set but most of his carefree days continue to be spent bonding with Jia Jia over bamboo bites, investigating enrichment toys prepared by his care team, and falling asleep in various poses on his favourite treetop perch.
If you would like to go and see Le Le yourselves, visit www.mandai.com/PandasticParty for more information.