When Taipei Zoo’s resident giant panda Yuan Yuan started showing signs of pregnancy – a rare event given the giant panda species’ narrow mating window – zoo keepers immediately lavished her with food and round-the-clock attention. However, they soon realized that the pregnancy was a false alarm and discovered something more disturbing – Yuan Yuan may have feigned pregnancy to receive the additional benefits that expectant bears get.
According to her keepers, Yuan Yuan – who was artificially inseminated earlier this year – initially exhibited tell-tale symptoms of pregnancy, like a loss of appetite and a thickening of the uterus. Yuan Yuan’s fecal progesterone concentration was also on the rise. Yet ultrasound scans determined that Yuan Yuan was not pregnant.
Zoo keepers revealed that pregnant pandas are typically treated like queens. Aside from getting the privilege of staying in “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 realized the difference in treatment and feigned pregnancy to get access to such..
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 international media. “So some clever pandas have used this to their advantage to improve their quality of life.”