The difficulties around raising giant pandas in captivity are in the news after a Chinese zoo received hundreds of applicants for panda keeper jobs but said it could not find any suitable candidates. Nanshan Mountain Bamboo Scenery Zone in eastern China’s Jiangsu province told the Modern Express that recruitment had been a “headache” for years and the zoo could not recruit enough panda caretakers due to a lack of qualifications. The tour area has allocated an enclosure of 1,000 square metres for the panda rearing facility and an undisclosed number of pandas. A manager at the tour zone said being a panda keeper is more complex than most people realise and involves much more than feeding and playing with them. He added that the job has high benchmarks for professionalism, personality and observation skills. “There are many detailed requirements for a keeper during the raising of pandas, such as weighing their faeces, observing the pandas’ moods and distributing bamboo by scattering it around and leaving it in a vertical position,” the manager, whose name was not released, said. “Perhaps due to the high threshold, we found very few applicants meet our requirements. So far, none of them has been recruited.” The manager said they wanted panda keepers with degrees in livestock rearing or veterinary medicine who are patient and responsible. “They must love animals. Having experience raising animals in a zoo is a plus,” said the manager. Mainland internet users have been buzzing about the panda sanctuary’s recruitment problem, with the news story receiving more than 120 million views on Weibo. “The world’s toughest job with ‘too high a bar to be reached’ is actually the position of a panda keeper,” one person joked. “I think the zoo should value a panda keeper’s love and patience more than his academic degrees,” another person said. Ma Tao, a giant panda keeper with over three decades of experience at Beijing Zoo, said his job requires both boldness and attentiveness. “Animals don’t speak. Only through their keepers’ careful observation can we then find out what they want,” Ma told the Shanghai Morning Post. “You interact with animals so that they get familiar with you, and you are getting familiar with them. From a panda’s response, you could sense its status: being afraid, vigilant or relaxed. You must read its language,” he said. But Ma said it is still risky to be around pandas. He said “cute” pictures of a panda holding the legs of a keeper that went viral on social media recently showed a potentially dangerous situation as this behaviour could injure the keeper. “It could bite you. Its teeth are small, but it really is painful when a panda bites you,” he said. According to China’s National Forestry and Grassland Administration, 673 pandas currently live in captivity around the world, most of them in China. Experts have estimated that the giant pandas living in the wild number around 1,800.