Taipei Zoo panda Yuan Zai is fake-pregnant

PHOTO: Taipei Zoo

Yuan Zai, the first giant panda born in Taipei Zoo, will turn 4 years old with a party on Thursday.

Fans are invited to stop by at 9:15 a.m. on Thursday to sing "Happy Birthday" to the beloved giant panda. People will be able to write down good wishes and get zoo souvenirs in return, zoo officials said.

Taipei Zoo had originally hoped to present a bespoke cake to Yuan Zai at 11 a.m., but the teenage birthday girl is in the middle of a phantom pregnancy and has lost her appetite.

To accommodate Yuan Zai's new biorhythms and catch her when she is hungrier, conservationists are starting the celebration earlier at 9:15 a.m.

Yuan Zai, at 4 years old, is gradually transitioning from teen to adult. In the wild, male pandas reach sexual maturity at 7 years old and females at 6. Pandas in captivity have better nutrition and mature about 2 to 3 years earlier.

Yuan Zai was born through artificial insemination on 2013. Her parents, Tuan Tuan and Yuan Yuan, were given to Taiwan by mainland China on December 2008 as a symbol of warming ties between the two sides.

In Chinese, "Yuan Zai" literally means "little round thing" or "glutinous rice ball."

Yuan Zai has become a main attraction at the zoo. Since she was born, visitors have been witness to her climbing trees, playing with her parents, munching bamboo and mostly sleeping 20 hours a day as pandas normally do.