Mysterious Panda Death in China
WSJ[Wednesday, July 28, 2010 22:26]
A mysterious case involving the death of a female panda at a zoo in eastern China after a leaky pipe caused it to inhale a lethal mix of gases has led police to detain a man who rented a nearby building.

Quan Quan at the Jinan zoo in 2008 (Reuters)
Quan Quan at the Jinan zoo in 2008 (Reuters)
Police detained the 48-year-old man, identified only by his surname Yang, after they said crews disinfecting a building he rented adjacent to the dwelling of the panda, called Quan Quan, caused toxic gases – including chlorine, chlorine hydride, and carbon monoxide – to seep into the panda’s house through a leaky pipe, state media reported Wednesday.

Yang had rented the former air-raid shelter to grow mushrooms, Xinhua said, and had hired a work crew to disinfect the structure. It’s unclear whether Yang was responsible for the leaky pipe.

“It’s an extraordinary case and looks like an accident,” said Chang Jiwen, a scholar with the Institute of Law under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, according to Xinhua.

Animal mistreatment at China’s zoos was spotlighted earlier this year after at least 11 Siberian tigers starved to death over the course of three months at a zoo in Shenyang, in northeastern in China.

Quan Quan was something of a celebrity. The 21-year-old panda had been dubbed a “heroic mother” in state media after giving birth to seven cubs. The species is among the world’s most endangered. The World Wildlife Fund estimates that only about 2,500 mature pandas remain in the wild.

– Brian Spegele