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Sick pandas on Chengdu research base provoke outrage

The Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding is in hot water over alleged mistreatment of animals after photos emerged online showing a panda’s eye severely infected by mites.

The photos were posted on January 19 by Weibo user @酵母菌大王, who wrote: “I was so startled that I almost dropped my phone when I went to take a picture of its face.” In the photos, the black patch around the sick panda’s eye is partially white, which is a sign of mite infection, a disease caused by too much exposure to humidity.

According to Global Times, an anonymous staff member at the facility said no more than 10 pandas suffered from the disease.

A travel blogger who goes by Travel Sichuan West (旅游川西 Lǚyóuchuānxī) compiled a slideshow of the diseased pandas, including the likes of:

Yongyong 勇勇

Yong yong

Qiyi 奇一

Qiyi

Fushun 福顺

Fushun

Mingming 明明

Mingming

Eryatou 二丫头

Eryatou

The base staffer, without revealing when the infection started, also told the newspaper that the infected pandas had received previous treatment, but the medicine didn’t work as expected, and that all the infected pandas have been quarantined and will receive another round of treatment with new medicine.

However, this sorta-official response did little to curb online outrage ignited by the heartbreaking photos, with many panda lovers accusing the facility of exploiting the endangered species for profit, with little regard to the animals’ long-term health.

Menglan 萌兰, a giant panda transferred to the Beijing Zoo in September 2017, was once a casualty of the base’s inadequate care. Last year, visitors of the facility discovered that Menglan looked unhealthy and had foam in his mouth, but the base refused to look into the situation, insisting that the male panda was in good health.

Menglan was later diagnosed with chronic osteomyelitis after some outraged panda lovers reported the case to the local forestry bureau. While the Chengdu breeding center operated on Menglan, its credibility has never fully recovered.

On Menglan’s Weibo page, which was set up and run by his fans, the pinned post is a plea to save his mother, Mengmeng 萌萌, from the base’s cruelty. According to the post, the room that Mengmeng lives in is in poor conditions. With a total area of 20 square meters, the room doesn’t meet the 30-square-meters criteria for a standard panda room. The room also lacks proper soundproof walls and windows to prevent Mengmeng from being disturbed by noise.

Last year, CCTV cameras inside the facility caught two keepers pushing, dragging, and throwing two pandas on the ground. Although the facility’s spokesperson later denied accusations of animal abuse, saying that the two keepers didn’t mean any harm to the pandas and that the violent behavior was an overreaction to the pandas’ biting, internet users were not convinced.

Built in 1987, the base had 176 giant pandas as of January 25, 2017, making it the largest panda base in the world.

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Jiayun Feng

Jiayun was born in Shanghai, where she spent her first 20 years and earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism at Fudan University. Interested in writing for a global audience, she attended the NYU Graduate School of Journalism for its Global & Joint Program Studies, which allowed her to pursue a journalism career along with her interest in international relations. She has previously interned for Sixth Tone and Shanghai Daily.

6 Comments

  1. Phyllis Stern Reply

    Whoever is in charge of these precious treasures, time to find new keepers and other staff. Such animal cruelty…

  2. June H Reply

    Thank you, Ms. Feng for publishing this! It has been known for a long time that pandas are not always being properly treated, ie being fed non-refrigerated vegetables, being left out in the sun, being fed bamboo that is too hard on elderly teeth, being ripped from their mother’s arms, being separated from a twin, being taken from countries where they were born, being put into so-called kindergartens, being sent out into the wild after having had contact with humans, not being properly medically treated (osteomyelitis, eye mites) being kept in very tiny enclosures without being able to go outside, ie No. 14, etc. These are national treasures of China and should be treated as such. They should be treated like royalty and be in places and with keepers who truly love them. Thank you for writing this article. Patrons of these zoos and bases need to know what it happening. Thank you also to Chinese panda fans who fight for our pandas.

  3. Monica Reply

    What a shame. Chengdu breeding base is all about money, Blood money.
    Mr.Zhang should pack his bags and leave the place with his Mrs. We need animals lover’s to run this place not the money making criminals.

  4. Denise Reply

    Queremos notícias atuais sobre todos estes pandas urgentemente. Tudo isso é muito cruel . Penso que, as autoridades que não estão fazendo seu trabalho com competência e honestidade, devem deixar seus cargos. Cuidar de animais não é fácil, é preciso antes de tudo ter respeito e amor.
    Denise.

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