Chengdu panda base slams online claims of cruelty

Xiao Ya, a panda that recently contracted an eye disease, rests at Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding in Sichuan, China. PHOTO: CHINA DAILY/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

CHENGDU (CHINA DAILY/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - The Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding in Sichuan province denied on Wednesday (Jan 24) that pandas at the base had been mistreated.

Netizens raised concerns over the condition of the pandas after images posted online by visitors to the base on Jan 19 showed the giant panda Qi Yi with white scabs around her eyes.

An article went viral online on Tuesday accusing the Chengdu base of not taking adequate care of the pandas when they were ill and using them for commercial gain and to build luxurious office buildings.

The base said on its Sina Weibo account that three giant pandas - Qi Yi, Yong Yong and Xiao Ya - that recently contracted an eye disease transmitted by follicle mites are now being tested to determine the cause of the white scabs.

The base said it is actively cooperating with experts from the Sichuan Agricultural University to tackle the pandas' eye disease.

Once the cause is confirmed, the base will take the most effective measures to treat the pandas.

The base also denied a rumour that the giant panda Meng Lan used to suffer from osteomyelitis, a bone inflammation caused by bacteria, but received no treatment.

Since being diagnosed in January 2017, Meng Lan received timely treatment and the base made public announcements about the panda's health on May 23 and July 7.

"I'm furious to see some netizens even slandering our base for not providing enough food for the pandas," said Zhang Zhihe, chief of the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding.

The base said that, contrary to the article's claims, it was not using money allocated for panda treatment to build five-star bathrooms, fancy coffee shops and luxurious office buildings.

Zhang said that the pictures of the luxurious buildings posted in the article were bathrooms for visitors.

Since the pandas attract many overseas tourists each year, some of the bathrooms in the base were of the same standard as a five-star hotel, he said.

Zhang also said it was not true that the base allowed people to hug pandas and charged 1,000 yuan (S$207) per time regardless of the provisions of the forestry bureau.

"That never happened once," he said.

The base invited people to visit in person to verify the status of the pandas.

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