This week, officials at China's Zhengzhou Zoo initially explained the disappearance of Jin Yi, a 7-year-old female giant panda, by saying she had been sent away for "mating." But after intense public interest and pressure, they admitted a few days later that the panda had died of organ failure after bleeding from gastroenteritis.
According to its keepers, the panda began refusing food two weeks ago. The next day, its health allegedly "deteriorated," and it died the next morning. But after the zoo's initial false statements, some observers have questioned whether the panda had been abused or even tortured to death.
When journalists visited the panda enclosure after Jin Yi's death, they reported seeing the habitat riddled with feces, some of it even mixed in with the bamboo. Visitors also reported seeing zoo officials make money by forcing the panda to pose for pictures with guests in the summer heat, whipping her if she disobeyed. There were also reports that the panda was fed a meager diet of corn cakes instead of a proper diet of bamboo.
The zoo has categorically denied all allegations of mistreatment. Nonetheless, the panda's sudden demise left a bitter taste in the mouths of many, some of whom saw it as another example of a society gone awry. "The death of the Zhengzhou Zoo's panda reflects reality," according to one Chinese microblogger. "First, it's customary to lie to the public. Second, anyone with even a little bit of power uses it to oppress people or animals... they have no respect for the world."