‘Injured’ panda ruffles feathers online

By Li Yifan and Zhao Yusha Source:Global Times Published: 2017/10/11 23:06:19

Zoo denies maltreating panda, says weight loss caused by tooth disease

A zoo in Northwest China's Shaanxi Province denied on Wednesday that an extremely underweight panda had been mistreated, saying that the weight loss was caused by a tooth problem.

The apparently malnourished panda had been spotted by a Weibo user, "tanxiongmaodeguzheng," at the Xi'an Qinling Wildlife Park in Shaanxi, who got suspicious and posted photos online on Monday.

The poor panda can be seen in the photos walking around its particular space with its ribs clearly visible, and appearing sluggish and in low spirits.

This soon had viewers raising questions about its health, with one Weibo user remarking, "This panda is totally different from what I imagine one looks like. Isn't it supposed to be round and cute?"

However, a staff member of the zoo told the Global Times that the panda was just suffering from pulpitis (tooth inflammation or decay) because it was old.

He simply noted, "It can't eat much these days," and denied that the panda's weight loss was caused by caretakers.

The person in charge of the animal said, "It's true that the panda is underweight, but that's not because we were abusing it. We actually got doctors to take a look at it, and its health is gradually recovering."

The poor animal is taking a rest until its teeth get better, and will not be available to visitors for the next few days, he added.

Tooth infections are some of the main problems that bother pandas and, if they suffer from that particular disease, they find it difficult to eat, which could cause them to starve to death, one expert at a Chengdu Panda base who refused to give his name, told the Global Times.

He noted that it is quite likely for a panda to lose weight rapidly if it suffers from pulpitis, which seriously affects their other living habits.

This is not the first time that the health of a panda has aroused public concerns.

The China Giant Panda Conservation and Research Centre has published an article describing how one panda, Didi, at a park in Central China's Henan Province, was seen by netizens to be bleeding around the mouth, so it was turned over to the research center, which announced that the animal's bleeding was the result of gum disease.

In a related incident in October 2016, authorities at the Lanzhou Zoo in Northwest China's Gansu Province denied that they were mistreating one of their pandas, Shulan, after photos of the wounded animal went viral on the Internet and sparked a public uproar and accusations of abuse.

Nonetheless, Zhao Huawen, founder of the Eudemonia Bank, a Chengdu organization dedicated to protecting the pandas' habitat, told the Global Times that some zoos are irresponsible with their pandas and may even mistreat them.

"The best way to prevent the mistreatment of pandas is for the authorities to keep a close watch on zoos, and to revoke the license of any zoo that is disqualified," said Zhao, adding that in spite of their popularity and the government's protection policies, some of the captured pandas do live in poor conditions.

The State Forestry Administration issued a regulation in 2011 stating that zoos should give health examinations for pandas annually and should report to the animal authorities if a panda is sick or injured.

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