Giant panda fakes pregnancy ‘to receive nicer food and round-the-clock care’
Ai Hin had been ‘under observation’ for two months and was scheduled for worlds’ first panda live birth
The world’s first live broadcast of a panda birth has been called off after experts said the “mother” involved may have been faking the pregnancy to receive better treatment.
“Phantom pregnancies” are common among giant pandas – but keepers at her breeding centre in Sichuan province believe six-year-old Ai Hin could be exhibiting learned behaviour that marks her out as smarter than the average bear.
The giant panda started showing signs of pregnancy including reduced appetite and mobility in July, at which point she was chosen to star in a heavily-publicised first ever live birth.
But after two months of observation, experts have told state news agency Xinhua that Ai Hin’s behaviour and physiological tests returned to normal.
Wu Kongju, an expert at the Chengdu Giant Panda Breeding Research Centre where Ai Hin is kept, explained that not all “fake” pregnancies among the animals are just down to hormonal changes.
“After showing prenatal signs, the 'mothers-to-be' are moved into single rooms with air conditioning and around-the-clock care,” Wu told Xinhua.
“They also receive more buns, fruits and bamboo, so some clever pandas have used this to their advantage to improve their quality of life.”
Part of the problem with breeding the highly-endangered species lies in the difficulty captive pandas have successfully giving birth.
There are 1,600 pandas left in the wild, and of the 300 or so in captivity only around a quarter will rear cubs.
Edinburgh zoo’s own female giant panda, Tian Tian, lost a cub late on in her pregnancy after a successful artificial insemination last year.
Video: Panda at Edinburgh Zoo is pregnant
Her keepers tried again this year, and the latest state-of-the-art tests suggest she could give birth for real very soon.
- 1 Florida man sentenced to two-and-a-half years for having sex on the beach in front of a child
- 2 Autistic teenager beaten up by bullies makes them watch 20-minute video about autism
- 3 Nick Kyrgios calls former Olympian Dawn Fraser a 'blatant racist' after she tells Wimbledon star to 'go back where their parents came from'
- 4 World learns of app that shows you who unfriended you on Facebook, app promptly crashes
- 5 Chris Moyles reportedly set to make radio comeback with new breakfast show on XFM
Florida man sentenced to two-and-a-half years for having sex on the beach in front of a child
Autistic teenager beaten up by bullies makes them watch 20-minute video about autism
Man who was struck and killed by lightning in Brecon Beacons 'was carrying a selfie stick'
Greece debt crisis as it happened: EU chiefs at loggerheads hours before Alexis Tsipras’s last ditch deal proposals
Bakery sends 'horrific' version of Frozen-themed birthday cake to unsuspecting customer
More Britons believe that multiculturalism makes the country worse - not better, says poll
Osborne to cap family benefits at £23,000 – announced ahead of his post-election Budget
Nathan Collier: Montana man inspired by same-sex marriage ruling requests right to wed two wives
Sickness and disability benefits could be reduced by £30 a week as part of £12bn welfare cuts
Greece debt crisis: Angela Merkel and Francois Hollande issue Athens with 24-hour ultimatum to avoid crashing out of the euro
Greece crisis: Referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its lack of genuine legitimacy
£23000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Business Analyst is required ...
£16000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: To succeed, you will need to ha...
£8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join an award winni...
£7 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Are you outgoing? Do you want to work in...