‘Dancing’ China panda is actually in distress, say experts

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 02 May, 2018, 3:55pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 02 May, 2018, 8:18pm

A video of a panda “dancing”, which was widely shared on social media in China, is more likely showing that the animal is suffering mental distress, according to experts.

The film, presented by the state-run Xinhua news agency as a light-hearted piece about a disco dancing panda, shows a seven-year-old male named Kaihin at the Qianling Mountain Park in Guiyang, Guizhou province. 

Kaihin is seen standing on all four paws, lowering his head and swinging it left and right, whilst also twisting his body. 

“He’s big and lovely,” said Wu Yuqi, a primary school pupil interviewed in the video. “This is my first time to see a real panda. It’s a fantastic experience.”

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Some internet users, however, suggested the animal may be in distress.

“This is not cute! This is repetitive behaviour,” one person commented, getting more than 1,000 “likes” on Sina Weibo, China’s equivalent of Twitter. “The panda is in pain. Please do not make fun of it.”

Another person agreed the panda seemed to be sick. “He must have some psychological illness. What has the park done?” 

Wang Shuqun, a member of staff at the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding in Sichuan province and a former keeper of Kaihin, told state television such behaviour could be a sign of mental problems for pandas.

“Having stayed in a fixed, small room for too long a time, [the panda] will become fretful and produce repetitive behaviour,” said Wang, who took care of Kaihin before he was sent to Guizhou last month.

Li Da, the head of panda habitat at the Qianling Mountain Park, admitted the panda was exhibiting signs of distress. 

“When homesick or panicking, Kaihin will shake his head,” Li told Xinhua. “He does like shaking his head, though … it’s his hobby.”

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The panda enclosure opened to the public at the Guizhou park on April 22. 

Kaihin was born in a zoo in Japan and moved to Sichuan last year with his twin sister and another young female panda to take part in the breeding programme.