Talk about “smarter than the average bear!” A giant panda apparently faked her pregnancy to manipulate her caretakers into granting her “special” perks.
According to the Telegraph, an 11-year-old panda named Yuan Yuan seemed to show the classic signs of pregnancy. Her Taiwanese caretakers noted that her appetite changed, and she seemed to be carrying more weight around the mid-section. To be sure Yuan Yuan was indeed with panda cub, experts were called in from the mainland to perform an ultrasound.
That’s when all concerned made the rather troubling discovery.
— Huffington Post (@HuffingtonPost) July 30, 2015
Why would a panda fake a pregnancy? Well, it makes perfect sense when you consider the hot weather and all the niceties granted to a pregnant panda. To protect the mother and unborn child, they’d place the pregnant animal in a private room with 24-hour air conditioning. The would-be mama panda would also enjoy extra feedings of only the best food.
Since Yuan Yuan was pregnant before, it’s easy to believe that she remembers how good she had it at the time. Experts think the memory prompted the giant panda to fake her pregnancy. Well, that and temperatures that can exceed 93 degrees in July.
— Toggle (@ToggleSG) August 1, 2015
There’s another reason experts believe the giant panda faked her pregnancy — it’s happened before. Last year at the Chengdu Breeding Research Centre, a giant panda named Ai Hin is thought to have tricked her handlers into anticipating a successful pregnancy. The workers were so excited they hoped to have a live broadcast of the birth. Of course, the truth was discovered, and the event was cancelled.
Aside from these two widely reported incidents, pandas apparently fake their pregnancies all the time. The animals have discovered that pretending to have a baby on the way means perks, and they’re not ashamed to manipulate their way into improved living conditions.
— The National (@CBCTheNational) August 1, 2015
Humans like to think we’re the masters of the animal kingdom and the smartest creatures, but stories like this make you wonder. Consider the fact that pandas are widely adored for their cuteness and escaped extinction due to human interference. If you believe giant pandas “evolved” into being living teddy bears to manipulate the adoring human species, you just might be on to something.
In any case, perhaps generally improved conditions for pandas might discourage the fake pregnancies. Until then, giant panda caretakers will have to be more certain of these animals’ conditions before making any pregnancy announcements.
[Image Credit: Paul Gilham/Getty Images]