Date
20 August 2017
Ai Hin showed signs of pregnancy in July, but her behavior and physiological tests later returned to normal. Photo: The Independent
Ai Hin showed signs of pregnancy in July, but her behavior and physiological tests later returned to normal. Photo: The Independent

Camera lights off: Panda pregnancy is a sham

Experts have called off what has been billed as the world’s first live broadcast of a panda birth after finding that the “mother” has been faking the pregnancy to receive better treatment.

Keepers at a panda breeding center in southwestern China’s Sichuan province believe six-year-old Ai Hin could be exhibiting learned behavior that marks her out as smarter than the average bear, The Independent said, citing a report from the official Xinhua News Agency.

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 well-publicized first ever live birth.

But after almost two months of observation, Ai Hin’s behavior and physiological tests returned to normal, experts told Xinhua.

Wu Kongju, an expert at the Chengdu Giant Panda Breeding Research Center 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 was 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.”

Giant pandas have become a highly endangered species because of continued habitat loss and very low birthrate. But breeding them in captivity is also difficult because many male pandas appear uninterested in mating under such a condition.

“Only 24 per cent of females in captivity give birth, posing a serious threat to the survival of the species,” according to Xinhua.

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