Uproar over 'mistreatment' of panda cubs at China breeding base

CHENGDU - An uproar has ignited in China over the apparent rough treatment of two panda cubs at China's top breeding and research base for the animal seen as a national treasure.

Rourou and Manman, the two baby pandas at the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding, are filmed being pushed, dragged and thrown by a staff member in a video that has gone viral, Xinhua news agency reported on Thursday (July 27).

Many are outraged by the mistreatment of the animals, seen as national treasures of China. A post about the incident on microblog Sina Weibo had drawn more than 6,000 comments as of 8pm on Thursday.

According to the base authorities, panda keeper Guo Jingpeng was acting out of self-defence after one of the cubs turned "violent" while he was feeding them milk on July 12, reported Xinhua.

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"It bit my hand really hard, its teeth cut into the flesh and my hand started bleeding," Guo said. "When it tried to bite me again, I pushed it away out of instinct."

Guo said his hand still bore marks of the bite two weeks after the incident.

Another panda keeper, Xie Huhai, said panda keepers often have to endure bites and scratches from "playful" cubs.

"We often get hurt by the pandas," Xie was quoted by Xinhua as saying. "Scratches and bites are daily occurrences."

The authorities at the breeding base said they had questioned the staff members about the incident and demanded all staff treat the pandas more "gently" when the animals try to bite or scratch.

"When we saw the video, we thought the staff members had overreacted, even though they meant no harm to the pandas," conceded Wu Kongju, a panda expert at the base.

"But we hope people can show more understanding towards the panda keepers because, although giant pandas look cute, they are quite strong and can be violent."