- Registration time
- Last login
- Online time
- 48 Hour
- Reading permission
The birth of tiny panda cubs - seen live on television for the first time - was expected to captivate viewers in China.|
But fans of the endangered animals will be disappointed, because there will be no pitter patter of tiny paws any time soon.
Experts say that the 'pregnant' panda who was to be the star of the show is not expecting after all, and may have been faking a pregnancy to cash in on cushy living quarters and extra treats at the Chengdu Giant Panda Breeding Research Centre in China.
Giant panda, Ai Hin, showed signs of being pregnant last month, according to reports by state news agency Xinhua.
But experts at the centre in the south western province of Sichuan, think she experienced a phantom pregnancy.
Ai Hin’s ‘behaviours and physiological indexes returned to normal’ ahead of her TV debut, they said.
It is standard practice at the breeding centre to take extra care of expectant giant pandas, as every cub is so important to preserving the highly threatened species.
Mothers-to-be are housed in air-conditioned single rooms and receive 24-hour care.
It is thought that the intelligent animals know their care improves when they are expecting.
Wu Kongju, an expert at the centre told Xinhua: ‘They also receive more buns, fruits and bamboo, so some clever pandas have used this to their advantage to improve their quality of life.’
Some of the bears continue to display pregnant behaviour after noticing their change of treatment and experts say that it is common for endangered animals to have phantom pregnancies.
Experts were led to believe that Ai Hin was pregnant as she became less mobile and had less of an appetite. They also noticed a surge in hormones at first – before realising the pregnancy wasn’t real, Gulf News reported.
Breeding centres such as Chengdu are needed to stop giant pandas teetering on the edge of extinction.
The animals’ natural habitat in the mountains has become more built-up and the bears have a low reproductive rate, making their survival perilous.
Female giant pandas reach maturity at between four and eight years old and only ovulate once a year in the spring.
A short period of two to three days is the only time they can conceive and while a panda often gives birth to twins, only one usually survives.
Over a lifetime of around 35 years, female pandas typically only successfully raise five to eight cubs, so their slow breeding rate prevents the population from recovering quickly.
There are just 1,600 pandas living in the wild in China, as well as some 300 kept in captivity.