A panda faked its pregnancy at a Chinese breeding center in order to get more food rations and special treatment, experts are now saying.
The nature of the "phantom pregnancy" was revealed to the public when the Chengdu Giant Panda Breeding Research Center in China called off its scheduled live broadcast of the birth.
The Guardian U.K. reported
that the 6-year-old panda, Ai Hin, was originally detected as having surging hormones, reduced appetite, and less mobility — signs of a pregnancy. Unfortunately for the breeders, her "behaviors and physiological indexes" eventually "returned to normal," and she was found to be not pregnant.
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Because pandas are given special treatment when they're suspected to be pregnant, they suspect Ai Hin continued the charade as long as she could.
"They also receive more buns, fruits, and bamboo, so some clever pandas have used this to their advantage to improve their quality of life," said Wu Kongju, an expert at the base, adding that pregnant pandas also get private, air-conditioned rooms.
According to The Washington Post
, phantom pregnancies are not entirely uncommon in pandas and other species.
Adding to the confusion of a panda's physical signs that mimic a real pregnancy, some pandas with signs of pregnancy miscarry without any signs of miscarriage. Moreover, panda fetuses are incredibly small, and can be hard to find with an ultrasound scan.
Pandas are under the threat of extinction, as only 24 percent of captive females give birth. There are roughly 300 pandas in captivity, and there is estimated to be roughly 1,600 pandas in the wild — many of whom are targeted by poachers.
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