On Monday, August 25, the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding reported that six-year-old giant panda, Ai Hin, may have “faked” a pregnancy to receive preferential treatment. In July, Ai Hin began to show indications she was pregnant, such as an appetite change, a decrease in movement, and an increase in progestational hormone. However, the giant panda is no longer showing these pregnancy indicators.
At Chengdu, expecting mothers are moved to single rooms with air conditioning where they receive 24 hour care along with more food. Wu Kongju, an expert at Chengdu, shared, “They also receive more buns, fruits and bamboo, so some clever pandas have used this to their advantage to improve their quality of life."
To the dismay of panda lovers worldwide, plans to broadcast online the birth of Ai Hin’s baby along with its early days have been cancelled. The Smithsonian Institution’s National Zoo reports less than 1,600 giant pandas live in the mountainous forest areas of China’s central region. Zoos and breeding centers, mostly located in China, have a population of more than 300 bears
Research shows that giant pandas are typically reluctant to reproduce while in captivity. Also, the time span for a pregnant giant panda can range from 80 to 200 days, which also contributes to how difficult it is to determine if the bear is carrying a baby. In fact, a female is only fertile three days out of the year and the survival rate for babies is extremely low. The Chengdu base reports only a third to a half of pandas born in Chinese captivity survive past infancy.
Fortunately, a healthy set of panda triplets were born in China's Chimelong Safari Park just last month; they are believed to be the only living trio of their kind. Additionally, the Edinburgh Zoo in Scotland believes its giant panda, Tian Tian, is pregnant, but Iain Valentine, director of giant pandas for the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland, commented, “It is very likely that we will not know 100% if Tian Tian is pregnant until she gives birth.”