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Zoo admits panda death under animal abuse backlash

2014-02-16 11:24 Xinhua Web Editor: Gu Liping

A zoo in central China's Zhengzhou City has admitted a female panda died last week, but avoided responding to public outcry questioning the animal's treatment.

Zhengzhou City Zoo in the capital of Henan Province issued a notice on Friday saying the panda, Jinyi, had died at the age of seven after emergency medical treatment failed to save her from massive hemorrhage and shock triggered by acute gastroenteritis.

The notice came one day after the zoo told local media that Jinyi had been sent back to her hometown in Sichuan Province for mating after reporters repeatedly questioned the zoo about the panda's whereabouts.

The zoo also denied allegations of animal abuse in raising the panda by claiming that the panda was leased from Wolong-based China Research and Conservation Center for the Giant Panda, which it said should be responsible for providing for the panda.

The center rebuked the zoo, saying that both parties should be responsible for the panda's care.

Pandas have a normal life span of over 20 years. The seven-year-old Jinyi had reached sexual maturity, and a health check conducted on the animal at the end of 2013 proved sound.

Li Caiwu, an expert sent by the center to rescue the panda, said the panda was already dead by the time he arrived. He conducted an autopsy of the animal and took a sample for laboratory tests.

"The animal began to show symptoms of vomiting on Feb. 7 and died within two days," he said, adding that parvovirus cannot be ruled out as the cause of the panda's death.

The panda's death spurred an online backlash over the zoo's alleged animal abuse. Netizens uploaded photos showing that Jinyi had been forced to pose with visitors for photographs last summer while her keeper enticed her with food.

Netizens suspected that the panda had been starved before public shows. The photos also indicate that the animal, accustomed to living in cool bamboo forests, had to work in summer heat of over 30 degrees Celsius.

The Chinese Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development, which supervises parks and zoos, banned animal performances in zoos in 2010. The performances were seen as violating the zoos' nature as non-profit, public interest institutes.

It ordered zoos and parks to provide animals with adequate food and necessary care and ban animal performances to "prevent them from being alarmed or provoked."

Although the ban has curbed once-rampant commercial animal shows, mismanagement of animals in Chinese zoos still occasionally catches the public's attention. In 2013, media reported that a tiger was whipped for not cooperating for photographs in a Guangzhou Zoo. Earlier, in 2010, tigers and lions suffered starvation in a Shenyang safari park.

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