Giant panda’s phantom pregnancy a ploy to be spoilt

By admin
29 August 2014

A giant phantom used a phantom pregnancy to get special treatment at the research centre in China where she’s living in captivity.

Staff at Chengdu Giant Panda Breeding Research Centre last month thought that the animal, called Ai Hin, was pregnant. They’d planned to have a live broadcast of the birth of the baby but shelved their plans when it was discovered Ai Hin wasn’t pregnant at all.

For two months the six-year-old giant panda had demonstrated behavioural change that made her seem pregnant. Her appetite decreased and she showed other physical signs of being pregnant.

The fetus of a giant panda is too small to show on an ultrasound scan so minders rely on behavioural change for confirmation in the early stages of their pregnancy.

Experts at the centre suspect Ai Hin might have had a phantom pregnancy. As the species is critically endangered pregnant females receive special treatment, including air-conditioning and more food and fruit to make sure the cub is born healthy. Only 24 percent of giant pandas females produce offspring in captivity.

The centre’s staff believe the intelligent bears might have caught on that their treatment improves when they fall pregnant. It’s apparently also quite common for endangered species to have phantom pregnancies.

There are only 1 900 pandas in China, of which some 300 are in captivity.

What is a phantom pregnancy?

Phantom pregnancies also occur among humans. It happens when a woman is convinced she’s expecting a baby but she’s not pregnant. A phantom pregnancy involves many – sometimes all – the symptoms of pregnancy – except for the presence of a fetus.

Compiled by Shané Barnard


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