A panda center in China is getting heat after three of its workers apparently mistreated two cubs.
The backlash came after CCTV footage made rounds on social media. It shows handlers at the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda pushing away two baby pandas, grabbing them by the scruff and tossing them to the floor on July 12.
According to the base, the three keepers were feeding the four cubs, Meilan, Jilan, Yuanyue and Yuanman, that evening. After they had finished eating, two of the pandas had to be separated and placed into a different enclosure for a medical checkup. However, the two who were left behind wanted to follow their playmates and the handlers had a difficult time keeping them inside. The two cubs apparently became agitated by the separation and bit and scratched the workers and finally, the keeper had to resort to force.
The video of the incident was posted on Wiebo, China’s Twitter-like microblogging site, by user “Yi Xi Lan,” who called the actions of the panda keepers “rude.”
The user said it would have been understandable if the workers had to drag away the cubs a couple of times. However, she said, Rou and Man Man (the nicknames of the cubs) were dragged and tossed repeatedly to the ground.
“I can’t bear it,” she added.
The video created quite a furor among Chinese internet users with some calling the keepers “brutal.” Others said panda cubs could be quite boisterous sometimes and a little force was understandable.
Some people criticized the footage itself, claiming the uploader had shortened or sped up the video.
The panda center said the handlers did not have bad intentions but their movements were “too forceful and too quickly.” They also said the video was edited to show only two minutes of a 50-minute interaction, which did not reflect the actual situation.
They also defended the handlers claiming they had formed a very close bond with the animals and were akin to their “parents.” But the base admitted the keepers had acted too forcefully and the pandas would be given gentler care in the future.
The three workers have also apologized to the public on Chengdu Business Daily. Investigation is still being carried out by the Chengdu Giant Panda Breeding Base.
The base has 113 giant pandas, the world’s largest breeding population of captive pandas.
Banner/Thumbnail: Reuters, Axel Schmidt