Giant panda Ai Hin is officially the sneakiest, smartest panda on the planet. She lives at the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding in China and was scheduled to be the first ever giant panda to have her birth broadcast live… until the Chinese state media reported that she is in fact, not pregnant.
“After showing prenatal signs, the ’mothers-to-be’ are moved into single rooms with air conditioning and around-the-clock care,” said Wu Kongju, who is one of the panda experts at the Chengdu base. “They also receive more buns, fruits and bamboo, so some clever pandas have used this to their advantage to improve their quality of life.”
Ai Hin, pictured above
So, Ai Hin, 6, knew that being pregnant would get her better care, and managed to pull off the “phantom pregnancy” for the last two months with ease. The signs she exhibited were a change in appetite, moving less and increased progestational hormone in July. But now, her behaviors have returned to normal. If these seem like small changes to rely on—they are. But what’s smaller than that are panda fetuses, which are so small that they are very hard to locate — even with ultrasound scans.
In fact, panda pregnancies are so rare and difficult, that it’s no wonder they receive such increased care if they conceive. Pandas are only fertile for three days a year, and their pregnancies span the bizarrely large range of 80 to 200 days. And even if a baby panda is born, their survival rates are desperately low—only a third to half born at the Chengdu center even live through infancy.
There’s as few as 1,600 giant pandas in the wild in China’s central forests, and about 300 live in breeding centers and zoos, mostly in China.
So even if Ai Hin was faking this time, here’s hoping that, eventually, she will bless us with a cuddly baby panda who has her same clever feistiness.