All the cameras were to be centered on one very special, and very pregnant, giant panda in what would have been the first live broadcast of a panda birth in China, but it turns out that the panda was't pregnant at all. Instead, she was faking it.

Not only did the six-year-old panda, Ai Hun, have a phantom pregnancy, but Chinese breeders think she may have done it in order to receive special treatment in the form of more food, an air-conditioned room and lots of attention. 

The panda first showed the usual signs of pregnancy two months ago, indicated by her change in appetite, her diminished mobility and an increase in progestational hormones at the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding.

Then, according to Chinese state-news agency Xinhua, Ai Hun started acting completely normal again, much to the dismay of panda lovers worldwide who anticipated watching the birth live.

Experts say that Ai Hun might have adopted some of the behaviors associated with pregnancy after noticing that she would get special treatment. Wu Kongju, an expert at the Chengdu base, is quoted as saying that "the 'mothers-to-be' are moved into single rooms with air conditioning and around-the-clock care." He also says pregnant pandas receive more buns, fruit and bamboo, which clever pandas could use to their advantage. 

Psueo pregnancies aren't uncommon among pandas in captivity, as actual panda births are incredibley rare. Female pandas are only fertile for no more than three days a year. If a panda does manage to get pregnant, a pregnancy can last anywhere from 80 to 200 days, and even after birth the survival rate for panda cubs in captivity is between a third and a half of all newborn pandas. Last month a panda gave birth to triplets in China's Chimelong Safari Park. Another panda birth may be coming soon as well, this time from a panda in Scotland by the name of Tian Tian. While researchers believe Tian Tian's pregnancy is the real deal, it is difficult to know for sure until the panda is actually giving birth. 

As few as 1,600 pandas live outside of captivity in the forests of China, while another 300 live in zoos and breeding centers around the world. Most of those pandas live in China.

Photo: Sheilalau via Wikimedia Commons 

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