Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on

Panda dies suddenly in Chinese zoo amid mistreatment claims

By Wilfred Chan, CNN
February 18, 2014 -- Updated 1312 GMT (2112 HKT)
Giant pandas such as this one are endangered, with an estimated 1,600 left in the wild and around 300 living in zoos.
Giant pandas such as this one are endangered, with an estimated 1,600 left in the wild and around 300 living in zoos.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • After claiming panda was gone for "mating," zoo admitted panda was dead
  • Panda died from organ failure after internal bleeding, says zoo
  • Visitors reported seeing the panda living in a dirty enclosure, "abused" by staff

(CNN) -- When visitors to China's Zhengzhou Zoo noticed its seven-year-old female giant panda, Jin Yi, was missing, zoo officials initially claimed she had been sent away for "mating."

Days later, they admitted the panda had died of organ failure after bleeding from gastroenteritis.

In a press event, the zoo told reporters the panda suddenly began refusing food on February 7. The next day, its physical and mental health "quickly deteriorated," and it died in the early morning of February 9.

Torture claim

Panda-monium in China
China's panda diplomacy
See baby pandas in crib

But after the zoo's initial false statements, some observers have questioned whether the panda had been abused or even tortured to death.

When journalists visited the panda enclosure after Jin Yi's death, they reported seeing the habitat riddled with feces, some of it even mixed in with the bamboo.

Chinese state media also quoted visitors who recalled seeing zoo officials make money by forcing the panda to pose for pictures with guests in the summer heat, whipping her if she disobeyed.

Others said that the panda was fed a meager diet of corn cakes instead of a proper diet of bamboo.

Autopsy

The zoo has categorically denied all allegations of mistreatment.

"The panda even ate better food than people. Some vegetables were even squashed before fed to her. There was absolutely no abusing," the zoo's media chief told reporters.

He added that there would be no firm conclusions about the panda's death until autopsy results arrived, which could take at least two weeks.

Nonetheless, the panda's sudden demise left a bitter taste in the mouths of many, some of whom saw it as another example of a society gone awry.

"The death of the Zhengzhou Zoo's panda reflects reality," complained one Chinese microblogger.

"First, it's customary to lie to the public. Second, anyone with even a little bit of power uses it to oppress people or animals... they have no respect for the world."

Zoo: Oxygen deprivation killed giant panda cub

Dayu Zhang and Steven Jiang of CNN Beijing contributed reporting.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
See CNN's complete coverage on China.
July 18, 2014 -- Updated 0230 GMT (1030 HKT)
Some savvy individuals in China are claiming naming rights to valuable foreign brands. Here's how companies can combat them.
July 16, 2014 -- Updated 0911 GMT (1711 HKT)
Is Xi Jinping a true reformist or merely a "dictator" in disguise? CNN's Beijing bureau chief Jaime FlorCruz dissects the leader's policies
July 8, 2014 -- Updated 0344 GMT (1144 HKT)
With a population of 1.3 billion, you'd think that there would be 11 people in China who are good enough to put up a fight on the football pitch.
July 4, 2014 -- Updated 0631 GMT (1431 HKT)
26-year-old Ji Cheng is the first rider from China to compete for competitive cycling's highest honor.
July 7, 2014 -- Updated 1124 GMT (1924 HKT)
China's richest man, Wang Jianlin, may not yet be a household name outside of China, but that could be about to change.
July 4, 2014 -- Updated 0414 GMT (1214 HKT)
Hong Kong's narrow streets were once a dazzling gallery of neon, where banks and even bordellos plied their trade under sizzling tubular signs.
July 3, 2014 -- Updated 2357 GMT (0757 HKT)
When President Xi Jinping arrives in Seoul this week, the Chinese leader will have passed over North Korea in favor of its arch rival.
July 3, 2014 -- Updated 1159 GMT (1959 HKT)
Three more officials have been given the chop as part of China's anti-corruption drive, including former aides to the retired security chief.
July 1, 2014 -- Updated 1305 GMT (2105 HKT)
As thousands of Hong Kongers prepare for an annual protest, voices in China's press warn pro-democracy activism is a bad idea.
June 30, 2014 -- Updated 0437 GMT (1237 HKT)
Hong Kongers are demanding the right to directly elect their next leader, setting up a face-off with Beijing.
July 1, 2014 -- Updated 0656 GMT (1456 HKT)
The push for democratic reform in Hong Kong is testing China's "one country, two systems" model.
June 30, 2014 -- Updated 1156 GMT (1956 HKT)
Along a winding Chinese mountain road dotted with inns and restaurants is Jinan Orphanage, a place of refuge and site for troubled parents to dump unwanted children.
June 26, 2014 -- Updated 0836 GMT (1636 HKT)
CNN's Kristie Lu Stout invites Isaac Mao, Han Dongfang, and James Miles to discuss the rise of civil society in China and social media's crucial role.
June 26, 2014 -- Updated 0334 GMT (1134 HKT)
Chen Guangbiao wants rich people to give more to charity and he'll do anything to get their attention, including buying lunch for poor New Yorkers.
June 26, 2014 -- Updated 1144 GMT (1944 HKT)
Architects are planning to build the future world's tallest towers in China. They're going to come in pretty colors.
June 23, 2014 -- Updated 1147 GMT (1947 HKT)
Anna Coren visits Yulin's annual dog meat festival. Dogs are part of the daily diet here, with an estimated 10,000 dogs killed for the festival alone.
June 19, 2014 -- Updated 0638 GMT (1438 HKT)
People know little about sex, but are having plenty of it. We take a look at the ramifications of a lack of sex education in China.
June 13, 2014 -- Updated 0812 GMT (1612 HKT)
Hong Kongers have reacted angrily to a Chinese government white paper affirming Beijing's control over the territory.
The emphasis on national glory -- rather than purely personal achievement -- is key.
June 16, 2014 -- Updated 1614 GMT (0014 HKT)
A replica of the Effel Tower in Tianducheng, a luxury real estate development located in Hangzhou, east China's Zhejiang province.
What's the Eiffel Tower doing in China? Replica towns of the world's most famous monuments spring up all over China.
June 11, 2014 -- Updated 0013 GMT (0813 HKT)
Rapid development hasn't just boosted the economy -- it has opened up vast swathes of the country, says a man who has spent much of his life exploring it.
June 10, 2014 -- Updated 0654 GMT (1454 HKT)
The World Cup is apparently making a lot of people "ill" in China.
ADVERTISEMENT