Quan Quan, a 21-year-old giant panda that was on loan to the Jinan Zoo in China was moved last week to an indoor enclosure to protect her from the summer heat, but a few hours later she was found dead. The panda was accidently exposed to deadly gasses that leaked into her habitat through a ventilation system with a design flaw.
Quan Quan, who was about 70 in panda years, was considered a national treasure in China because she gave birth to seven cubs during her lifetime. Her death has drawn criticism from international animal advocacy groups who are calling for Chinese officials to strengthen the laws in the country that protect animals in captivity.
The autopsy showed the giant panda died from inhaling a mixture of chlorine, chlorine hydride and carbon monoxide. The fumes made her lungs collapse.
“The ventilation system was built in 1995,” a spokesman said to The Telegraph. “It was used to keep the panda house cool, but it fed large amounts of smoke into the panda enclosure.”
Quan Quan was not the first panda to die at the Jinan Zoo. In 2008 a panda named Tao Tao died of brain complications at the age of 36.
China has about 250 pandas in captivity that belong to several different breeding facilities. About half stay at a breeding center, while the other half are loaned to various zoos in the country and worldwide or given as gifts. Quan Quan came from the Wolong Panda Breeding Center in Sichuan, which is home to 150 pandas. Pandas are an endangered species with only 1,000 living in the wild.
Quan Quan’s death is causing animal groups and individuals to question the reasoning for having the breeding centers.
Kati Loeffler, veterinary advisor for the International Fund for Animal Welfare told the L.A. Times, “These pandas are being bred for a life in captivity. Why are they being bred? Just so they can circulate through zoos and live next to old air raid shelters?”
Loeffler pointed out that pandas have died in Chinese zoos and the breeding facilities because of malnutrition, stress, inappropriate breeding and poor veterinary care.
Chinese citizens have also called for change in how the pandas are treated. They want an explanation how this type of accident could occur. Giant pandas are treated as celebrities in the country and Quan Quan was beloved by many people.
A group of mourners that included adults, parents and their children held a funeral service for Quan Quan at the Jinan Zoo to pay tribute to her life.
Creative Commons - Chi King Giant Panda