A TV station in China faced harsh criticism online after photos from one of its reality shows surfaced on social media.
Beijing TV has come under fire for filming a show called “Giant Panda Fantasy,” which lets a bunch of celebrities raise panda cubs for up to 100 days. Now that the animal is not considered endangered anymore, the show has snatched at least one cub, Qing Qing, from its mother’s care to entertain viewers.
The cub was recruited from Wolong National Nature Reserve in Wenchuan County, Sichuan Province.
In a country that that even has a state-run website that live streams pandas’ daily lives all day, every day, it’s not surprising that the masses are furious with this show for putting the animals with such close contact with unqualified humans.
Instead of protecting giant pandas and assisting them to get better acclimated to natural habitat, the show is actually exploiting the animals to attract the audience.
The giant panda is not only China’s national animal, it is also considered the country’s national treasure. Panda fans have even started a hashtag #BoycottGiantPandaFantasy on — Weibo the Chinese social media equivalent to Twitter.
The online user, who goes by Zhougul, first discovered the photos (now removed from the original source) that launched the controversy. He claimed life of Qing Qing’s family “has been turned upside down, with a sharp drop in sleep and loss of appetite,” according to BuzzFeed.
“I was lucky enough to see Cranberry in Dujiangyan in August. He’s a naughty boy,” wrote another Wiebo user, nicknaming the cub Cranberry. “Qing Qing was especially active, rolling around on the rack. Before I left, he was back inside and lying on Yao Man [his mother], cute and at the same time annoying. I didn’t think that they would be forced apart in merely half a month, just to entertain some celebrities?”
An animal welfare group, Animals Asia Foundation, also commented on the matter.
“It’s a common trick to entertain the audience by forcing unweaned cubs to leave mothers for the purpose of animal performance,” it stated. “This violates animal welfare, and we urge [the authorities] to stop such programs from continued shooting and broadcasting.”
However, China Conservation and Research Center for the Giant Panda, situated inside the Woolong Nature Reserve, has endorsed the show for aiming to “correctly educate the public with living habits of giant pandas.”
The center also claimed that Yao Man is not producing enough milk to feed Qing Qing anyway and is instead encouraging masses to “witness the growth of Qing Qing and other pandas.”
While giant pandas are no longer included on the list of endangered animal, they are still classified “vulnerable.”
“Whereas the decision to downlist the giant panda to vulnerable is a positive sign confirming that the Chinese government’s efforts to conserve this species are effective, it is critically important that these protective measures are continued, and that emerging threats are addressed,” the International Union for Conservation of Nature wrote in a recently report.