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Pandas get health check

Jia Jia finally getting its check-up yesterday. It was late for the visit because it would not stay still for sedation. (ST PHOTO: CHEW SENG KIM)

Publication Date : 21-09-2012


Panda Jia Jia showed up late for its health check-up yesterday because it is scared of needles.

It was due at the zoo's animal hospital at 10:30am, but veterinarian Serena Oh could not fully sedate it as Jia Jia would not stay still for the injection.

"Jia Jia is a bit sensitive about injections... It pulled away after the first shot, so I couldn't give it the full dose," said Dr Oh, the assistant director of the veterinary department at Wildlife Reserves Singapore (WRS).

The zoo's team had to use two anaesthetic blow darts. By then, the female panda was at least 45 minutes late for its appointment.

At WRS' animal hospital, the four-year-old panda had its teeth counted and checked, and its chest X-rayed.

It also received an ultrasound examination of its liver, kidneys and womb. Blood samples were taken to test for bacteria such as salmonella.

Dr Oh said both Jia Jia and its male companion, Kai Kai, were in good health. Kai Kai went for its full-body check-up earlier yesterday morning.

It did not resist being sedated, as it had undergone more training. Pandas can be conditioned to stay still for injections or to open their mouths for dental checks.

Zookeepers also had Kai Kai do squats to strengthen its thighs so fitness will not be an issue when the two are ready to mate.

Dr Oh said they are not sexually mature yet. "We hope they will reach sexual maturity in another year," she said.

Kai Kai turned five last Friday, while Jia Jia celebrated its fourth birthday on September 3.

The pandas, which flew into Singapore on September 6 from the Chinese city of Chengdu, are now under quarantine in their dens at the River Safari.

They are here on a 10-year loan from China in recognition of the close bilateral ties between the two countries.

They have since settled into their new homes and grown used to their new diet, which consists of locally grown bamboo, high-fibre biscuits and fruits.

The panda exhibit opens in December, but WRS has not worked out the ticketing details yet.

Visitors will enter the exhibit from the zoo, as the River Safari will open only in the first quarter of next year.


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