Washington zoo denies giant panda Mei Xiang is having health issue, as Chinese netizens call for her return

Giant panda Mei Xiang eats treats in the giant panda house at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo in Washington, D.C., the United States, on Feb 23, 2019.Photo:Xinhua

The Smithsonian’s National Zoo in Washington said Mei Xiang and her cub are healthy and denied that the giant panda had “convulsions” after eating an icy treat, as alleged by some Chinese netizens, which caused the fur to fly on Chinese social media. 

Topics related Mei Xiang include “save Mei Xiang,” and accusations that the “Washington zoo is not taking good care for Mei Xiang” were hot topics on China’s Twitter-like Sina Weibo last week after some netizens posted videos, which they claim were shot on October 19 and show Mei Xiang suffering stomach aches and convulsions after eating ice. 

Some netizens also claimed that the zoo is not giving Mei Xiang enough food and Mei Xiang is suffering from starvation.  

None of the accusations appear to have inside knowledge of the zoo. 

In response to the controversy, the Smithsonian’s National Zoo replied via e-mail to the Global Times on Thursday saying video from its “Giant Panda Cam” has been reviewed and allegations of “convulsions” had been “unsubstantiated.”

The zoo said that they often give Mei Xiang a treat of frozen apple juice and the video, curators observed “some leg twitching and scratching, but no ‘convulsions’ as alleged and both of these behaviors are normal and do not warrant concern.” 

Mei Xiang does have arthritis, but animal care staff have ways of controlling to Mei Xiang’s condition and easing her discomfort. Overall, the zoo said it does not have concerns about Mei Xiang’s health.  

The zoo noted that Mei Xiang eats more than 60 pounds (35 kg) of bamboo every day. The pandas’ normal diet consists of 60 and 100 pounds of yellow groove bamboo and arrow bamboo every day.

Mei Xiang, 22, and Tian Tian 23, have lived at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo since 2000. The zoo’s contract with its partners in China has been twice extended, in 2010 and 2015. 

Mei Xiang has given birth to seven cubs and three have survived to adulthood. 

As of Saturday, Mei Xiang-related topics on Weibo had been viewed more than 400 million times. Some netizens even called on China to not renew the zoo’s contract which comes due on December 7.  Other netizens said the zoo should be trusted as it has taken care of the pandas for 20 years. 

Some netizens said Mei Xiang and Tian Tian should be returned to China noting their age.  The world’s oldest living captive panda is 38-year-old Xin Xing, who lives in a zoo in southwest China. 

The Smithsonian’s National Zoo said it’s currently discussing arrangements for the giant pandas beyond December 7, 2020 with its partners in China.

Related posts

Interview: Scholar says China’s anti-poverty efforts "illuminating"


China’s new hybrid rice yields 10-20% more, breaks world record


Hangzhou may ban mandatory collection of facial recognition scans in residential communities, marking China’s first