Skip to main content

Report: Panda may have faked pregnancy for more buns, bamboo

By Laura Smith-Spark, CNN
updated 10:55 AM EDT, Wed August 27, 2014
Giant pandas are notoriously reluctant to breed in captivity and pseudo-pregnancies are common.
Giant pandas are notoriously reluctant to breed in captivity and pseudo-pregnancies are common.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Giant panda Ai Hin had a phantom pregnancy, Xinhua reports
  • The panda was supposed to be the star of the first live broadcast of a panda birth
  • Expert says pandas sometimes act pregnant after noticing they get better treatment

(CNN) -- A giant panda slated to be the star of the first-ever live broadcast of the birth of panda cubs has lost the role -- after it was discovered the bear is not pregnant after all, Chinese state media reported.

Not only was it a phantom pregnancy, but zookeepers suspect the panda, Ai Hin, may have been faking it to improve her quality of life, the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding told Xinhua on Monday.

Ai Hin, age 6, had shown signs of pregnancy, including a change in appetite, moving less and an increase in progestational hormone in July, according to Xinhua.

See the world's cutest panda triplets

But after almost two months, she began acting normally again, zookeepers said.

Experts say pandas sometimes carry on the behaviors associated with early pregnancy after noticing that they get preferential treatment, the news agency reported.

"After showing prenatal signs, the 'mothers-to-be' are moved into single rooms with air conditioning and around-the-clock care," Wu Kongju, an expert at the Chengdu base, is quoted as saying.

"They also receive more buns, fruits and bamboo, so some clever pandas have used this to their advantage to improve their quality of life."

The birth of Ai Hin's supposed cub and its progress in its early days, from its first cries to acquiring its distinctive black-and-white fur, were due to be broadcast online to panda lovers in China and worldwide.

Giant pandas are notoriously reluctant to breed in captivity and pseudo-pregnancies are common.

The female is fertile for no more than three days a year, and the time span for a pregnancy is from 80 to 200 days, according to the Chengdu base. Scientists will closely monitor behavioral and physiological signs, but it's often a guessing game.

Even if a pregnancy proves genuine, baby pandas have very low survival rates. According to the Chengdu base, only a third to a half of pandas born in Chinese captivity manage to survive past infancy.

There was good news last month, though, when a panda gave birth to a healthy set of triplets in China's Chimelong Safari Park in the southern city of Guangzhou. The cubs are thought to be the only living panda triplets in the world.

Edinburgh Zoo in Scotland thinks its panda, Tian Tian, could be the next to produce a cub, based on the latest scientific tests, but there are no guarantees.

"It is very likely that we will not know 100% if Tian Tian is pregnant until she gives birth," Iain Valentine, director of giant pandas for the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland, said earlier this month.

As few as 1,600 giant pandas survive in the mountain forests of central China, according to the Smithsonian Institution's National Zoo in Washington. More than 300 pandas live in zoos and breeding centers around the world, most of them in China.

READ: Thanks to science, there are more baby pandas

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 12:46 PM EST, Sun December 21, 2014
The tragic killing of two cops could not have happened at a worse time for a city embroiled in a bitter public battle over police-community relations, Errol Louis says.
updated 10:20 PM EST, Sun December 21, 2014
North Korea warns the United States that U.S. "citadels" will be attacked, dwarfing the hacking attack on Sony that led to the cancellation of a comedy film's release.
updated 9:51 PM EST, Sun December 21, 2014
The gateway to Japan's capital, Tokyo Station, is celebrating its centennial this month -- and it's never looked better.
updated 11:21 AM EST, Sat December 20, 2014
More than 1.7 million children in conflict-torn areas of eastern Ukraine face an "extremely serious" situation, Unicef has warned.
updated 8:22 AM EST, Fri December 19, 2014
Boko Haram's latest abductions may meet a weary global reaction, Nigerian journalist Tolu Ogunlesi says.
updated 5:34 AM EST, Fri December 19, 2014
Drops, smudges, pools of blood are everywhere -- but in the computer room CNN's Nic Robertson reels from the true horror of the Peshawar school attack.
updated 9:43 PM EST, Wed December 17, 2014
The gunman behind the deadly siege in Sydney this week was not on a security watch list, and Australia's Prime Minister wants to know why.
updated 4:48 AM EST, Thu December 18, 2014
Bestselling author Marjorie Liu had set her sights on being a lawyer, but realized it wasn't what she wanted to do for the rest of her life.
updated 3:27 PM EST, Tue December 16, 2014
CNN's Matthew Chance looks into an HRW report saying Russia has "legalized discrimination against LGBT people."
updated 9:12 PM EST, Mon December 15, 2014
The Sydney siege has brought home some troubling truths to Australians. They are not immune to what are often called "lone-wolf" terror attacks.
Bill Cosby has kept quiet as sexual assault allegations mounted against him, but his wife, Camille, finally spoke out in defense of her husband.
updated 9:31 AM EST, Fri December 19, 2014
Each day, CNN brings you an image capturing a moment to remember, defining the present in our changing world.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.
ADVERTISEMENT