Animals

Suffering miscarriage of cub, Ying Ying would've been the first panda mum to give birth in Hong Kong

Ocean Park says Ying Ying's pregnancy is 'no longer viable' after signs of lifelessness seen and reabsorption of cub back into the body

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 07 October, 2015, 11:39am
UPDATED : Thursday, 08 October, 2015, 8:30am

It's gone …

Ocean Park said yesterday the foetus growing inside the womb of its resident giant panda, Ying Ying, was being reabsorbed into the animal's body and was no longer a viable pregnancy.

The park said ultrasound scans performed on Tuesday and yesterday showed the 3.5cm-long foetus no longer had a heartbeat, dashing hopes that it would be the first panda ever born in Hong Kong.

"The foetal structures were no longer distinct and were breaking down, thus confirming the pregnancy is no longer viable," said Dr Lee Foo Khong, a park vet.

Ying Ying had been carrying the foetus for 130 days as of yesterday, which falls within the range of time a giant panda is usually pregnant for, at 120 to 140 days. Pregnancies can be as short as 70 days or as long as 320 days.

The foetus had been recorded as normal and showing a clear structure in an ultrasound image taken on September 28, but signs of lifelessness were detected on Tuesday morning.

Lee said the team at the park needed time to review what went wrong and when.

Reabsorption of a foetus into the body is common in some animal species and is dependent on the mother's health and condition of the uterus, but Lee said the reasons for the phenomenon in pandas are unclear.

"That is still pretty much a mystery," Lee said. "There is not a lot of information able to tell us what causes a foetus to stop developing."

Dr Wang Chengdong, director of veterinary service at the China Conservation and Research Centre for the Giant Panda at Wolong in Sichuan province, said foetal reabsorption had taken place in other pandas, including those in American and British zoos, but there was no data on its frequency.

"It is very difficult to collect such information. Pandas basically do not eat at the later stage of pregnancy and just rest all day. Information obtained through ultrasound scans is very limited," Wang said.

READ MORE: YOUR PANDA QUESTIONS ANSWERED

The failed pregnancy should not affect 10-year-old Ying Ying's reproductive chances in the future, he added.

The dead foetus might be fully reabsorbed into Ying Ying's body, or the remains might be passed out naturally. It was not clear how long the process would take.

The female panda remained healthy and was behaving normally, with her daily food intake at 1kg, and her resting time at 22 hours a day. The team said Ying Ying had not shown any unusual psychological symptoms. She was being closely monitored by regular blood and urine samples.