Rousing Support for Singapore’s First Giant Panda Cub on His Last Day With the Public Before Going to China’s Conservation Programme

Le Le makes his final appearance in the Pavilion Capital Giant Panda Forest exhibit before entering quarantine and preparing for his flight to China on 16 January 2024 

  • 10:41 AM, 13 Dec, 2023

Singapore’s first giant panda cub is all set for his month-long quarantine before he heads to his new home. He has received vaccinations and will be undergoing thorough health checks to ensure he is ready to start the new chapter. Photo credit: Mandai Wildlife Group

(Singapore, 13 December 2023) The school holiday brings more joyful buzz to the Mandai Wildlife Reserve this year-end, but things are a little different at River Wonders. About 1,000 guests turned up at the park today to bid farewell to giant panda cub Le Le on his last day in his exhibit at the Pavilion Capital Giant Panda Forest. After the announcement in September 2023 that Le Le would be heading to China, thousands of families in Singapore and international visitors have come to see him. All eyes have been on this furry resident’s growth since his surprise arrival in August 2021, and he is now just a month away from his journey to China where he will officially join the country’s giant panda conservation programme. 

Le Le’s customised travel crate measures approximately 1.7m long, 1.1m wide and 1.3m high. He is also being conditioned to the presence of the removable plywood boards. As a start, a board is held at a comfortable distance while he is rewarded with a treat. Photo credit: Mandai Wildlife Group

Dr Cheng Wen-Haur, Deputy CEO of Life Sciences and Operations and Chief Life Sciences Officer, Mandai Wildlife Group said, “China’s giant panda programme is a great example of the One Plan Approach that leverages the strengths of ex-situ and in-situ partners in collaborative efforts. We are honoured to contribute as a zoological institution, and we look forward to continuing this important work.”

At the farewell party graced by Ms Qin Wen, Cultural Counsellor of the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in the Republic of Singapore, a Conservation Ambassador shared heartwarming stories about connecting with guests on Le Le, as well as the joy he has brought to so many people.

Ms Qin was joined by the management of Mandai Wildlife Group as well as Pavilion Capital and Singapore Airlines (SIA) in presenting the public with a community-centric memento of the beloved bear. Everyone is invited to add artistic strokes to what would eventually be a painting of Le Le. The paint-by-numbers art piece will be outside the Pavilion Capital Giant Panda Forest from 13 to 17 December 2023, 10:00am to 2:00pm.

Dr Cheng Wen-Haur added, “We have watched our giant panda cub grow into the confident, inquisitive and independent bear that he is today. He is adored by all who have had the privilege of caring for him and we are excited to celebrate with him in his continuing role as an ambassador for his species. It is so heartening to see people of all walks of life coming together for Le Le, and cheering him on in the next chapter of his life. We have been able to mark these important milestones in species conservation because of our dedicated animal care and veterinary teams, our Chinese colleagues from the China Conservation and Research Center for the Giant Panda, and the generous support of our sponsors SIA and Pavilion Capital.”

Le Le will be the VIP, or Very Important Panda, for the duration of the approximately 4.5-hour-long flight to his new home on 16 January 2024. He will board a specially arranged Singapore Airlines Boeing 747-400F freighter aircraft, which will depart Singapore Changi International Airport at 7.15pm local time for Chengdu Shuangliu International Airport. The freighter is designed for versatile cargo transport, fitted with tracks, locks, and rollers to accommodate different types of cargo. The aircraft nose door can be opened upwards to accommodate Le Le’s custom-made crate and his travel essentials, which include his in-flight meal consisting of up to 50kg of bamboo, bamboo shoots, fruit, pellets and water. 

The ambient cabin temperature will be maintained between 15°C and 16°C, consistent with the temperature of Le Le’s habitat at River Wonders’ Pavilion Capital Giant Panda Forest. To ensure his in-flight care and well-being, Le Le will be accompanied by a keeper and veterinarian from Mandai Wildlife Group, as well as a keeper from China who arrives in Singapore prior, for the transition involving Le Le’s care regime. After Le Le arrives in Chengdu at approximately 11.30pm local time, he will be transported to a quarantine facility in Huaying, Guang’an City, Sichuan Province. 

Mr Marvin Tan, Senior Vice President Cargo, Singapore Airlines, said, “Everyone in Singapore has excitedly watched Le Le grow up over the last two years, and it is now time for him to go to his new home. Singapore Airlines is happy to do our part by providing him with a safe and comfortable flight to Chengdu, in support of conservation programmes in Singapore and around the world.”

Le Le’s custom travel crate took about two weeks to build. Fabricated in accordance with guidelines by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and advice from the Chinese experts, it was introduced to Le Le’s den on 27 November 2023. In preparation for his flight, the panda care team has since been conditioning Le Le using Positive Reinforcement Training. This involves food rewards to encourage him to voluntarily enter the crate and get accustomed to being inside. Le Le is getting well acquainted with the travel crate which will be loaded onto an air-conditioned truck (similarly kept at around 15°C to 16°C) for the journey to Changi Airport on departure day. The crate comes with a plywood board at each end which can be removed to facilitate feeding and checks, as needed, while on board.

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