hinese netizens have used the power of social media to get this 13-year-old giant panda, named Weiwei, away from the keeper that had been mistreating him and the zoo that wasn’t doing enough to keep him healthy.
Earlier this week, a Weibo user became concerned about the panda’s apparently failing health following a visit to the Wuhan Zoo in the capital of Hubei province, writing online that Weiwei’s skin and fur were looking unusually white around the nose, eyes, and paws, Chinese state media reports.
The Weibo user also published footage of the panda’s keeper appearing to neglect his duties, opting instead to take a smoke break and wash his hair at work. Meanwhile, tourists were seen poking Weiwei with a stick and a fan inside of the panda’s enclosure appeared broken (Wuhan summers are notoriously hot). The caretaker was also accused of feeding Weiwei rotten apples. Poor panda.
After these postings resulted in online outrage, the Wuhan Zoo apologized and responded by suspending Weiwei’s keeper and replacing him with a more qualified and diligent caretaker.
However, the zoo wasn’t yet off the hook. Turns out, the slacker employee wasn’t the only one to blame for Weiwei’s maltreatment.
Last May, the China Conservation and Research Center for the Giant Panda sent a letter to the Wuhan Zoo asking them to update their facilities to better accommodate Weiwei, who had been at the zoo since his home was destroyed by the 2008 Sichuan earthquake. Although plans to give the panda a much larger living space were released this January, no apparent construction had yet begun.
Additionally, zoo authorities confirmed last August that Weiwei was suffering from a tyrosine deficiency. Tyrosine is a non-essential amino acid that aids in the production and regulation of hormones. A deficiency can result in flu-like symptoms such as extreme fatigue, unusually pale skin, and swollen joints. Weiwei’s tyrosine deficiency is believed to have been caused by lack of sunlight
On Wednesday, Weiwei was flown from the Wuhan Zoo to his new home in the China Conservation and Research Center for the Giant Panda outside of Chengdu. There he can finally receive the proper care and love he needs to ensure a full recovery and live to a ripe old age.
Although Weiwei is now in safe hands, it is unfortunate that this kind of drastic action is only really taken for China’s most iconic creature, while other zoo animals that are mistreated are often simply left to stick it out.
[Images via NetEase]