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Forced Separation of Panda Mother and Cub Triggered Emotional and Physical Trauma

September 12, 2019 by Leave a Comment


The News

In 2017, the Smithsonian National Zoo forcibly separated a giant panda from her 18 month old cub so it could artificially inseminate her again. Since then, both mother and cub, who live in adjacent enclosures but cannot see each other, have displayed signs of anxiety, stress, and physical and emotional trauma. At four years old, the cub is now too old to be reunited with his mother, but advocates who fought for over two years to reunite them want the public to know about the needless suffering that these animals endured after the premature separation.

Background

On August 22, 2015, giant panda Mei Xiang gave birth to Bei Bei at the Smithsonian National Zoo after being artificially inseminated with sperm from the Zoo’s male panda. In spite of being held in captivity, mother and cub, Mei and Bei, appeared to be happy.

Giant panda Mei with her cub Bei before the Smithsonian National Zoo forcibly separated them in 2017

On February 28, 2017, the Zoo separated Mei and Bei while Bei and moved them into different enclosures. The Zoo executed the forced separation so that it could artificially inseminate Mei again.

Mei and Bei, mother and cub, search for each other at the Smithsonian National Zoo after a forced separation.

“The forced separation created anxiety, frustration and distress for Mei and Bei,” said Michelle Schmitt-DeBonis, an advocate who has been speaking out on behalf of the pandas since their separation. “The egregious mistreatment adds salt to the wounds of animals who should never have been bred for captivity in the first place.”

Mei and Bei were separated when Bei was 1.5 years old. In the wild, a giant panda mother would typically separate from her cub when the cub is between two and 2.5 years old because pandas are solitary animals. Because Bei is now four years old, he would no longer be living with his mother in the wild. However, given their premature separation, the stressors of captivity, and Mei and Bei’s ongoing efforts to communicate, Schmitt-DeBonis and other advocates believe they should be given the opportunity to at least see each other, even if only through a window.

Since the forced separation, the Zoo has subjected Mei to three rounds of artificial insemination, in spite of how sick the procedures made her. Video footage shows Mei struggling to walk and crying out in pain while locked indoors for weeks at a time. On September 11, 2019, the Zoo announced that the most recent attempt to impregnate her failed. The story was covered in the Washington Post. On September 5, Psychology Today published an essay by veterinarian Dr. Kati Loeffler about the dark side of the captive panda breeding industry. 

Mei has shown signs of sickness and great discomfort each time the zoo has artificially inseminated her.

Your Turn

Please ask Dr. Steve Monfort, the Director of the Smithsonian National Zoo, to allow Mei and Bei to see each other through a window:  monforts@si.edu, (202) 633-4442


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Backlash Against Politician’s Plan to Import Pandas and Put Them on Display in NYC

September 20, 2017 by Leave a Comment


The News

Carolyn Maloney, a U.S. Congresswoman from New York, is working to import a pair of giant pandas from China and display them in New York City.  

In a YouTube video, “The Pandas are Coming to NYC,” Maloney cites several ways in which this endeavor will benefit humans, including education, entertainment, increased tourism, and improved relations with China. She makes no mention, however, of the welfare of the pandas, who, like other wild animals, suffer in captivity.

U.S. Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney hosted a “Panda Ball” in NYC to raise money to import pandas from China to NYC.

Pandas are wild animals, not objects for display. In the forests of China, they have rich lives, gathering food, roaming freely and raising their young.  In captivity, they languish in their exhibit spaces while people take selfies through sheets of glass.

In 2012, the Director of Conservation Education at China’s largest panda breeding facility described captive-bred pandas as a “caricature” of the real thing. People who are genuinely interested in learning about pandas can watch nature shows that document their behavior in the wild. Observing pandas in an artificial enclosure will only teach people that wild animals can be imprisoned for our amusement. Furthermore, it will do nothing to help conserve pandas in the wild.

Animal rights activists say pandas are wild animals with instinctual needs that can not be met in captivity.

If Congresswoman Maloney moves forward with her plan to rent pandas from China, she will not only fuel the market for captive pandas but also help to perpetuate the abuse that exists in China’s panda breeding facilities. Undercover video released in July, 2017 showed workers using excessive force on two babies. This disturbing footage reinforces what we already know — that panda breeding facilities are panda mills in disguise. Indeed, the pandas born in captivity are rented out, like commodities, for $1 million/year to zoos.

Wild animal captivity is already losing favor in the mainstream, as evidenced by the closure of Ringling Bros., plummeting attendance at SeaWorld and the newly passed NYC law banning wild animals in circuses. Indeed, public attitudes are already shifting in favor of freedom.

Your Turn

Please sign the Care2 petition asking Carolyn Maloney to call off her plan to import pandas into NYC for display.

Follow No Panda Prison NYC on Facebook.


Filed under: Entertainment, WIldlife
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