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‘Phantom pregnancy’ panda becomes mother for real

A giant panda gave birth to a cub and many viewed the delivery online

A giant panda that let down her fans with a “phantom pregnancy” in 2014 gave birth to a cub on Friday morning, with more than 100,000 people viewing her delivery online.

The male cub, weighing 145 grams, was born at 6.06 a.m. at Chengdu Giant Panda Breeding Research Centre in Sichuan province, Xinhua news agency reported.

The baby panda, the first born worldwide this year, and the mother are in good health.

Staff with the research centre made a live telecast of Ai Hin, 9, available on the internet from 7 p.m. on Wednesday, as she was exhibiting prenatal behaviour.

Before then, she had shown signs of pregnancy, including increased production of progestational hormones and reduced appetite, for more than 20 days.

In August 2014, viewers tuning in to a 48-hour live feed of the supposedly pregnant Ai Hin were surprised when she never gave birth.

It was discovered that she was not actually pregnant. She showed signs of pregnancy but her behaviour and physiological indexes later returned to normal.

Phantom pregnancies are common among pandas. Non-pregnant pandas are often subject to progestational hormone changes, and scientists who work with pandas say the “mothers” sometimes notice differences in their treatment and carry on with the pregnant behaviour in anticipation of greater comforts and attention.

“After showing prenatal signs, mothers-to-be are moved into single rooms with air conditioning and round-the-clock care. They also receive more buns, fruit and bamboo, so some clever pandas have used this to their advantage to improve their quality of life,” Wu Kongju said.

Ai Hin was one of two twins born to Mei Mei in Japan in December 2006. The twins were returned to China in 2012.

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