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Live birth broadcast cancelled after panda fakes pregnancy to get more food

Ai Hin had her eye on an air conditioned room and around-the-clock care.

Panda at the Chungu centre (Not Ai Hin)
Panda at the Chungu centre (Not Ai Hin)
Image: Mel Longhurs/PA Images

A LIVE-BROADCAST of a panda giving birth has been cancelled after it emerged that the “mother” in question may have been faking her pregnancy for extra food.

The slated star of the show, giant panda Ai Hin, had shown signs of pregnancy at the Chengdu Giant Panda Breeding Research Centre, according to Chinese state news agency Xinhua.

A live broadcast of the event was planned, but Xinhua said her “behaviours and physiological indexes returned to normal”, citing experts saying she experienced a “phantom pregnancy”.

The breeding centre, in China’s southwestern province of Sichuan, commonly moves pandas which are thought to be pregnant into single rooms with air conditioning and around-the-clock care.

“They also receive more buns, fruits and bamboo, so some clever pandas have used this to their advantage to improve their quality of life,” Wu Kongju, an expert at the base told Xinhua.

Phantom pregnancy is said to be common among the endangered animals, and many bears continue to display pregnant behaviour after noticing the difference in treatment they receive.

2587476076_0f289b3321_b Pregnant pandas are moved to nicer enclosures. Source: Flickr

Six-year-old Ai Hin experienced reduced appetite, less mobility and a surge in hormones when her “pregnancy” was first detected before further observations concluded it was fake.

The giant panda’s natural habitat is in the mountainous southwest of China. But the bears have a notoriously low reproductive rate and are under pressure from factors such as habitat loss.

© – AFP 2014

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