The Giant Panda Research Center in southwest China defended itself after a video of one keeper beating a young panda cub surfaced online.
In the video, the curious panda cub known as Hua Ni can be seen enjoying attention from one of the zookeepers at the Ya’an Bifengxia Panda Kindergarten. However, when the cub approaches the keeper for another stroke, the man slaps the cub on the head and the cub runs away.
Footage of the event has since gone viral and has been shared widely among Chinese Internet users. In response to the video, a staff member of the research center said that pandas’ claws and teeth can be very harmful.
“Our keepers often get hurt by pandas even if they don’t mean to cause harm,” the staff member reported. “Keepers are told that they should gently hit the panda’s ear or nose to make them go away.”
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The staff member went on to admit that the keeper didn’t punish the cub correctly, and has since been suspended while an investigation is carried out. The center reported that they will not tolerate such violence to animals, especially from their employees, and that stricter regulations will be enforced to avoid a repeat incident.
“Please stop it and please take good care of them,” one panda lover wrote on Chinese social media website Weibo. “Don’t break the hearts of panda fans again.”
Many hope that the zookeeper will no be allowed to return or interact with panda bears again, according to TVNZ.