Panda numbers are on the rise overall. A 2014 census revealed 1,864 giant pandas in the wild, with a total of 2,060 giant pandas alive in the world. As of 2016, the giant panda was moved from "endangered" to "vulnerable" on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)'s Red List of Threatened Species.
Though the giant panda is seen as a national treasure in China and is closely protected by the government, this is far from the first instance of cruelty that pandas face in captive breeding programs. In recent years, giant panda conservation efforts have turned into a multi-million dollar industry, with breeding programs giving little thought to successfully returning pandas to the wild. In facilities such as Chengdu, cubs are regularly taken from their mothers right after birth and raised separately until they are ready to be displayed in a nursery or lent to a foreign zoo at a considerable cost. Adult female pandas are continuously drugged and inseminated, with births seen as a numbers game by the programs.
Though hard to watch, the surveillance footage is just the first step toward revealing the alleged mistreatment pandas face behind closed doors.
Chengdu Research Base did not immediately reply to The Dodo’s request for comment.