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No bun in the oven for panda that loves extra buns

(China Daily)  ??  2014-08-28 09:49


Mao Mao and her cub Mao Ge appear at the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding in Sichuan province. They were chosen to replace panda Ai Bang in a live broadcast about new cubs after it was found that Ai Bang was not pregnant.


Hopes that tiny panda paws would be seen in the world's first live broadcast of a cub delivery were dashed on Tuesday when Chinese experts suggested the "mother" may have been focusing more on extra bun rations than giving birth.

The slated star of the show, giant panda Ai Bang, had shown signs of pregnancy last month at the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding, according to Xinhua News Agency.

A live broadcast of the event was planned, but Xinhua said her "behavior and physiological indexes returned to normal", citing experts who said she experienced a "phantom pregnancy".

The breeding center in Sichuan province commonly moves pandas that are thought to be pregnant into single rooms with air conditioning and around-the-clock care.

"They also receive more buns, fruits and bamboo, so some clever pandas have used this to their advantage to improve their quality of life," said Wu Kongju, an expert at the base.

Phantom pregnancies are said to be common among the endangered animals, and many continue to display pregnant behavior after noticing the difference in the treatment they receive, Xinhua said.

Ai Bang, who is 6 years old, experienced reduced appetite, less mobility and a surge in hormones when her "pregnancy" was first detected, the news agency said, before further observations indicated it was fake.

The giant panda's natural habitat is in the mountainous southwest of China.