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Is she or isn't she? Panda gives the runaround
Updated: 2004-09-15 11:02

A 20-year-old giant panda and mother of 13, including four sets of twins, has been giving her keepers the runaround, pretending to be expecting yet again.

Hua Mei, the first overseas-born giant panda to return to China, gave birth to twins. Hua Mei is being shown videos to teach her how to look after her two young cubs. [AFP]
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Qing Qing began showing all the telltale signs of pregnancy in July, eating less and then eating nothing at all, Xinhua news agency said on Wednesday.

"Qing Qing's behavior cheated all of us," Yu Jianqiu, deputy head of the giant panda breeding and research center in Chengdu, capital of southwest Sichuan province, was quoted as saying.

"In recent days, Qing Qing has begun eating again and she has an appetite as good as before." She was found to have been pretending "after several consultations with scientists."

Born in 1984, Qing Qing had already produced a record 13 offspring, including four sets of twins, since 1989.

"What has made Qing Qing unique is that all her 13 babies have survived, a miracle in the history of artificial breeding of the rare creatures," Xinhua said.

The grand dame of pandas gave birth to the 13th cub in September last year.

A female giant panda can become pregnant once a year and give birth to at least one cub each time. It becomes sexually mature at the age of four or five, and becomes infertile when it is about 20.

Sometimes called "living fossils," now-endangered giant pandas are believed to have been around since the time of the dinosaurs.

About 1,590 still live in the wild, mostly in the high, fog-shrouded mountains of Sichuan, and 160 live in captivity.

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