In China, do not touch the giant panda

EIn China, if there is one animal that must not be harmed, it is the giant panda. In a video released this week that has gone viral, an employee at the Giant Panda Research Center in Chengdu city drags and repeatedly sends two very popular panda cubs, Rurow and Manman, flying.

The video was immediately taken as evidence of ” animal abuse as stated in one of the 6,000 comments accompanying the clip on the Sina Weibo website. Other netizens are calling for the resignation of the guardian of Jingpeng Guo, the man who fought the panda.

User Sina Wiebo went so far as to pose a question to a public research institution:

“We have always believed that the center in Chengdu exists in order to save our national animal. He has done a great job in the past and made many Chinese people happy with his pictures of panda cubs. But this incident definitely changed my mind about how it works and what its goals are. »

The species, strictly protected by the state, is considered a symbol of the country. It also has the official status of “national treasure”. In the collective imagination, the giant panda refers to Eastern thought based on complementarity and duality. His “Zen” attitude contrasts with the delicate balance of his existence, and his colors, black and white, are reminiscent of Yin and Yang.

An official “national treasure” that serves Chinese diplomacy.

Since the 1940s, China has also turned it into a geopolitical tool through its “panda diplomacy”. The communist state, the owner of all the giant pandas on the planet, sometimes offers them as gifts to establish or improve its diplomatic relations with a third country. The last donation was made a few weeks ago to Germany.

Hence the predictable criticism of the Chengdu base. It is one of the institutions most committed to the conservation of the species, which as of 2016 is no longer considered endangered.

Giant panda Mei Xang at the Washington National Zoological Park in 2015.  Sweet, but biting.

But if its symbolic meaning, as well as its rounded and soft appearance, large eyes and clumsy gait make the giant panda attractive, it also turns out to be a dangerous animal.

That excuse came from Jingpeng Guo, who told the official Xinhua news agency that the two-minute clip did not show that he had been bitten just before being fed by one of the baby pandas. ” The animal bit me very hard on the arm. His teeth sank into my flesh and my arm began to bleed. When he tried to bite me again, I instinctively pushed him. »

“They are very strong and can be violent”

Wu Kongju, a Chengdu researcher, insisted on corroborating the guardian’s version:

“When we discovered the video, we thought that our employees reacted disproportionately, although they had no intention of harming the pandas. But we would like people to understand goalkeepers. Although giant pandas are cute, they are very strong and can be cruel. »

And for good reason, because the giant panda, a carnivorous species that became a vegetarian as a result of a genetic mutation, has a sagittal crest. This bony formation, which he developed to be able to gnaw on tough bamboo stalks, contains extremely powerful chewing muscles, giving him one of the strongest bite forces in the world. For example, in 2006, a drunk man jumped into a Beijing zoo enclosure to cuddle an animal only to find that his leg had been bitten to the bone.

Jingpeng Guo said he was touched by the footage posted online: Netizens say we don’t like pandas. But we decided to work here because we love these creatures. The research center says it has asked its staff to be more careful with pandas, even if they scratch or bite.

But nothing helps. In the Chinese network, outrage cannot take into account factual arguments. Netizen from Beijing:

“I don’t care what he said, they were just babies. I was so pissed off at the way he rocked a helpless panda cub. If he was so concerned about his safety, why wasn’t he wearing protective gear like gloves? »

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