An Edinburgh Zookeeper’s narrow escape from a giant panda highlights the dangers of keeping wild animals in captivity.
In another example of exactly how dangerous it is to hold wild animals captive, a zookeeper has narrowly escaped from an adult giant panda.
The “near-miss” incident happened at the Edinburgh Zoo in Scotland. Apparently, the staff in question, a female, had been cleaning out the panda enclosure when she suddenly heard movement behind her.
She quickly abandoned her brush and bucket and made a dash for the door making it just in time. The giant panda, named Yang Guang, was fast on her heels but she managed to exit the enclosure with the bear a few feet behind her.
If she hadn’t been paying attention or missed the noise for any reason, she could have been “seriously injured or even killed.” The panda was accidentally let back into its enclosure while the she was still busy cleaning it.
How Did This Happen?
Though the management initially denied that the incident ever happened, leaked emails and photographs from angry staff proved otherwise. For instance, the picture below was made public by disgruntled staff. They attributed the security lapse to staff shortages at the Zoo.
Also, staff claimed Edinburgh Zoo was in “crisis,” staff morale is at rock bottom, and the welfare of resident animals is at risk.
The Royal Zoological Society of Scotland, owners of the Zoo, quickly dismissed the claims as “scurrilous and unfounded.” However, they later admitted it actually happened.
Though people regard them as cuddly, adult giant pandas have a fearful bite and they can inflict grievous injury on humans.
Could More People Have Been Hurt?
In addition, the email from the Zoo staff to authorities claimed that the incident could have been much worse. The bear could just as well have escaped into the public areas of the zoo. If that is true then it would have caused serious problems for any visitors in the vicinity.
Basically, a disaster was averted.
Remember that though this species is often described as cute, cuddly, gentle, and so on, it’s still a bear. A very large bear with sharp, powerful teeth and a fearful bite force. In fact, a study by the National Wildlife Federation shows that the adult giant panda has a bite force higher than a hyena or an African lion.
Imagine what such a bite would do to a human being. Also, these animals frequently fight leopards in the wild and they win. There are numerous incidents of serious injuries from panda encounters in the past.
The Danger Of Animal Attacks At Zoos
Luckily, no person or animal was hurt in this incident. But severe injuries and even deaths from animal maulings in zoos happen quite often around the world.
In a strong reaction from the Captive Animals’ Protection Society (CAPS), they said. “The leaked photo showing the keeper’s narrow escape, highlights once again the very real risk to human safety created by keeping wild animals in captivity. In this year alone we have seen many similar occurrences at zoos with one leading to the tragic death of a keeper at Hamerton Zoo … If they cannot provide basic care for the animals they hold captive and cannot guarantee public safety, then their gates should be shut.”
In an unrelated incident, a zookeeper at Hamerton Zoo, also in the UK, died after a mauling by a very rare tiger. The tiger managed to get in while she was cleaning its den.
For now, the panda in question is safely back in his den with his mate, the female Tian Tian. They both arrived Edinburgh on loan from China in 2011 but they haven’t produced any cubs to date. Meanwhile, the affected female zookeeper left the Edinburgh Zoo and never returned.
Edinburgh Zoo retains its position as the second most popular tourist attraction in Scotland. Though visits have dropped lately.