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People Are Boycotting A Reality Show That Let Celebrities Raise Pandas

The panda research center partnering with the show endorsed the cubs' treatment but the outrage is real.

Posted on September 14, 2016, at 6:20 p.m. ET

Giant pandas are appreciated all over the world because look at them. But in China, where they're dubbed a "national treasure," the love is hardwired into you from birth.

The panda-obssessed country even got a state-run panda website dedicated to live-broadcast pandas' daily lives 24/7 for the panda fans that are a little bit intense.


That's why many people were furious to learn about a TV reality show being filmed called "Giant Panda Fantasy" that has cut at least one one-year-old cub away from its mother's nurturing.

A trending page on Weibo, #BoycottGiantPandaFantasy, has reached more than four million views and got thousands of comments, after a panda fan noticed photos posted on the account of one of the celebrities tasked with raising the young panda on the show. The fan wrote a long article to condemn the entertainment industry meddling with animals' natural environment and urged for the cub to be returned to its mother.

People also criticized the program for putting pandas into close contact with a group of celebrities, and a bigger crew behind the camera, for up to 100 days.

The photos have since been deleted from their original source.

Weibo user "Zhouguli" — who first discovered the photo that launched the controversy — says that life of the family of Qing Qing, one panda recruited by the program from Wolong National Nature Reserve, has been turned upside down, with a sharp drop in sleep and loss of appetite.

The user claims to be a big fan of Qing Qing, and has been monitoring them through the panda channel mentioned earlier. BuzzFeed News has reached out to the user for comment.

Many people expressed support for the boycott. Weibo user "Yeyan Li" told the story of her encounter with Qing Qing, who's nicknamed Cranberry.

"I was lucky enough to see Cranberry in Dujiangyan in August. He's a naughty boy," she wrote. "Qing Qing was especially active, rolling around on the rack. Before I left, he was back inside and lying on Yao Man [his mother], cute and at the same time annoying. I didn't think that they would be forced apart in merely half a month, just to entertain some celebrities?"

"It's a common trick to entertain the audience by forcing unweaned cubs to leave mothers for the purpose of animal performance," animal welfare group Animals Asia Foundation commented.

"This violates animal welfare, and we urge [the authorities] to stop such programs from continued shooting and broadcasting."

But according to an endorsement published by the China Conservation And Research Center for the Giant Panda, housed inside the Woolong Nature Reserve, Qing Qing's mother isn't producing enough milk anyway.

The center in the statement not only endorsed the show for aiming at "correctly educate the public with living habits of giant pandas," but also "sincerely" encouraged the public to "witness the growth of Qing Qing and other pandas."

The TV station under fire, Beijing TV, remained silent but reposted the endorsement.

But people still aren't sure why a celebrity reality show is the best approach to educate people with panda knowledge, when giant pandas, though not an endangered animal anymore, are still classified "vulnerable."

Last year, another Chinese TV animal reality show received criticism from domestic and international experts for mishandling animals, giving them pedicures and dressing them up in costumes.

/ © Hunan TV Station

The national debate boils down to one question, so obvious that even the state-run Global Times asked it: "don't such human-serving programs go against our desire to protect giant pandas and better facilitate them to return to the nature?"

A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.