Panda 'fakes pregnancy' to get better living conditions

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Yuan Yuan, a female panda, eats her "birthday cake" at Taipei Zoo. [Photo/Xinhua] 

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Hopes that another panda cub would soon be born in Taiwan were dashed when experts determined that signs of pregnancy displayed by a giant panda at Taipei Zoo appear to have been faked by the animal in order to secure better conditions during the summer.

Yuan Yuan, one of a pair given to Taiwan as gifts by the Chinese mainland in December 2008 had shown signs of pregnancy such as loss of appetite, thickening of the uterus and increased fecal progesterone concentration since June 11.

But panda experts flown from the mainland determined through ultrasound checks that Yuan Yuan was not pregnant, according to Taiwan's Central News Agency.

The 11-year-old had been artificially inseminated on March 26 and 27 when she was on heat, according to a zoo spokesman.

The symptoms of pregnancy are already beginning to return to normal appetite levels and behavior, the spokesman said.

Pandas thought to be pregnant are moved into single rooms with air conditioning and round-the-clock care and also receive more fruits and bamboo.

Experts believe clever pandas display behavior similar to pregnancy to improve their quality of life after noticing the difference in treatment they receive.

Yuan Yuan, which went to Taiwan with Tuan Tuan, gave birth to her first and only cub, Yuan Zai, in July 2013. The names of the pair produce the Chinese phrase tuan yuan, which means reunion. They are among the most popular attractions at the zoo.

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