They may look cute and cuddly but the following stories of giant panda attacks call for caution.
When most people think of the giant panda (Ailuropoda melanoleuca), what comes to mind is a chubby, gentle, huggable, and absolutely cute creature. They assume these are docile, lumbering creatures with a funny habit of sneezing.
That’s not completely untrue: they are cute and chubby, and they sneeze a lot. But gentle and huggable, maybe not so much.
Generally, pandas are peaceful creatures that won’t normally seek out a ‘fight.’ But, they can be territorial, and these are still wild animals no matter the environment or situation.
A few Incidents Of Panda Attacks
A few people have discovered the hard way that pandas can deliver a nasty bite:
Hong Kong Park.
In December 2008, a keeper at a Honk Kong park was bitten by a panda as he was laying bamboo leaves on the ground for the animal to eat. The keeper, a male, managed to crawl away from the panda and required medical attention afterwards.
Liziba Village, China.
On March 1st 2014, a wild panda strayed into the village of Liziba, Gansu Province, China. The villagers quickly notified officials who arrived soon after to capture it. In the process of chasing it, the panda ran into the farm belonging to a farmer, Mr. Guan Quanzhi.
Mr. Quanzhi was in the farm at the time and unknowingly blocked the path of the fleeing panda. The obviously frightened panda attacked him by sinking its teeth into his leg and would not let go.
The farmer later said the pain from the bite was “indescribable.”
He was eventually rescued by fellow villagers but the damage to his leg was severe. Eight surgical operations and some years later, he still hasn’t recovered from the effects of the bite. The leg is shriveled, he can’t walk with it and it may have to be amputated.
In another incident years later in 2006, an intoxicated man climbed over the perimeter fence of the panda enclosure at Nanchang Zoo and attempted to touch a sleeping panda. Apparently he did this to try an impress some friends of his.
Well, bad decision: the panda (named Mei Ling) immediately woke and grabbed him by the leg then wrestled him to the ground. The young man fought back too but later said he was too drunk to remember much from the incident. Of course the man in question was also seriously injured and was taken to hospital for treatment.
Interestingly, he claimed he never knew pandas could bite.
The Giant Panda’s Bite Force Makes Panda Attacks Dangerous.
You may wonder why such a gentle-looking creature can inflict so much injury. And why are panda attacks so nasty anyway?
Remember that they are bears after all. Also, they spend over half their lifetime chewing and eating bamboo: an exceptional tough plant. With time, their teeth and jaw muscles increase in strength.
Such severe injuries are also possible because of the giant panda’s chunky and heavy skull and its sagittal crest. The sagittal crest is a ridge of bone that runs on top of the skull in many mammals. Mammals with this crest have remarkably strong jaw muscles, for instance the adult male gorilla has it.
According to the National Wildlife Federation, in a study of 151 carnivores by a team of Australian and Canadian biologists, the giant panda ranked at an impressive 3rd position with a bite force quotient (BFQ) of 292 pounds. Bite force in this study was calculated relative to the animal’s size.
The panda’s bite force was higher than that of the African lion and the hyena!
In addition, these are animals that frequently fight with leopards in the wild, and they defend themselves very well. So, imagine what such a bite would do the human body. Of course, it may not do as much damage as a lion since its teeth are not as sharp.
There are still other isolated reports of people being bitten by pandas with varying levels of severity. But ultimately the point is this: they are territorial and will react defensively if they feel threatened.
You definitely won’t want to be at the receiving end of such a powerful bite force.