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Panda Accused of Faking Pregnancy To Get Better Food, Air Conditioning

Expectant pandas are moved to air-conditioned rooms and showered with more buns, fruit and bamboo.

Headshot of Dominique MosbergenBy Dominique Mosbergen – News Editor, The Huffington Post – Posted: 07/30/2015 12:57 AM EDT | Edited: 07/31/2015 02:07 PM EDT

Pandas Tuan Tuan and Yuan Yuan, names together mean "reunion", eat bamboo at a panda base in Ya’an, southwest China’s Sichuan province, Thursday, Dec. 11, 2008. A few weeks after this photo was taken, the duo were moved to Taiwan. (Associated Press)

Keepers at the Taipei Zoo were excited. Resident giant panda Yuan Yuan was exhibiting signs of pregnancy — an all-too-elusive event among captive pandas.

There were tell-tale symptoms, like a loss of appetite and a thickening of the uterus. Yuan Yuan’s fecal progesterone concentration was also on the rise.

Yet despite these promising signs, the panda’s pregnancy was a false alarm.

According to China’s Southern Metropolis Daily, ultrasound scans determined that Yuan Yuan, who was artificially inseminated earlier this year, was not pregnant. Now the panda is being accused of faking the pregnancy as a way of getting her caretakers to shower her with better food and care.

Pregnant pandas are typically treated like queens. As China Daily notes, the expectant bears are moved into “single rooms with air conditioning” and given “round-the-clock care.” They receive more buns, fruit and bamboo as well.

Panda experts have speculated that Yuan Yuan, who gave birth to a cub in 2013, may have been feigning pregnancy to reap these added benefits.

Taiwan’s panda cub Yuan Zai, right, and her mother Yuan Yuan enjoy Yuan Zai’s first birthday cake at the Taipei Zoo in Taipei, Taiwan, Sunday, July 6, 2014. (Associated Press)

Last year, another female panda named Ai Hin was accused of trying to pull the same trick. The panda, who lives at the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding, exhibited pregnancy symptoms for two months before experts determined that she didn’t actually have a cub in the oven.

“After showing prenatal signs, the [panda] ‘mothers-to-be’ are [pampered],” Wu Kongju, an expert at the Chengdu Research Base, told CNN last year. “So some clever pandas have used this to their advantage to improve their quality of life.”

Other panda experts disagree with these accusations.

Zhang Heming, director of the China Research and Conservation Center for the Giant Panda, told the Guardian last year that pseudo-pregnancies are actually fairly common in the panda world. He attributed the pandas’ behavior to "more of a hormonal issue than a deliberate ruse."

"This phenomenon occurs in 10 to 20 percent of pandas," he said. "After the mother panda is inseminated, if her health isn’t so good, the pregnancy will terminate, but she’ll still behave as if she’s pregnant."

According to a 2010 LiveScience report, scientists "don’t know why pseudo-pregnancies happen, or if they have evolved for an evolutionary purpose."

"In a sense there’s no answer, but there is speculation that perhaps pandas’ bodies just rehearse pregnancy all the time," Lisa Stevens, curator of primates and pandas at Smithsonian’s National Zoo, told the news outlet.

Also on HuffPost:

Alamy AK58HY Giant Panda Cub  Kin Cheung/AP One of the one month old Panda triples receives a body check at the Chimelong Safari Park in Guangzhou in south China’s Guangdong province Thursday, Aug. 28, 2014. China announced the birth of extremely rare panda triplets in a further success for the country’s artificial breeding program. The three cubs were born July 29 in the southern city of Guangzhou. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung) Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP Panda cub Bao Bao hangs from a tree in her habitat at the National Zoo in Washington, Saturday, Aug. 23, 2014. Today marks her first birthday and the zoo is marking the event with a traditional ‘Zhuazhou’ ceremony, a Chinese birthday tradition symbolizing long life to mark the event. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais) Getty Images

YA’AN, CHINA – JUNE 29: A giant panda climbs onto a platform at the panda research base on June 29, 2015 in Ya’an, China. China’s Sichuan province is home to the majority of the the world’s nearly 1,900 endangered giant pandas. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

leungchopan panda eating bamboo

  Alamy AJC9T9  -  ASSOCIATED PRESS

 

A woman poses for photographers with the part of the 1,600 paper pandas, created by French artist Paulo Grangeon, in front of the Sultan Abdul Samad Building during the month-long "1600 Pandas World Tour" in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Sunday, Dec. 21, 2014. (AP Photo/Lai Seng Sin) ABA PREFECTURE, CHINA – JULY 05: (CHINA OUT) Aerial view of people, wearing panda costumes with mahjong tiles, playing mahjong during a mahjong competition at a theme park in Jiuzhai Village on July 5, 2015 in Aba Perfecture, Sichuan Province of China. Over one hundred people wearing panda costumes with mahjong tiles played on a one hundred-square-meter mahjong table during a mahjong competition. (Photo by ChinaFotoPress/Getty Images)  

Getty Images

CHENGDU, CHINA – JUNE 30: Giants pandas pause from eating bamboo in an enclosure at the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding on June 30, 2015 in Chengdu, China. Twin female cubs were born by artificial insemination to seven-year-old Kelin at the center on June 22. China’s Sichuan province is home to the majority of the the world’s nearly 1,900 endangered giant pandas. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

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August 1, 2015 Posted by | animal behavior, Animal or Pet Related Stories, animals, Dogs, Just One More Pet, Pets, Stop Animal Cruelty, Stop Euthenization, Unusual Stories, We Are All God's Creatures | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment