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Shocking Incident Of Panda Mistreatment Caught On Film [GRAPHIC]

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A worker at a panda breeding facility in China has sparked outrage in the panda-loving community (which is just about everyone), after he was caught on film striking a little panda cub multiple times in its enclosure for no apparent reason.

According to news site China Topix, the incident occurred at the Giant Panda Research Center in the Sichuan province. A video posted online shows a staff member, dressed in civilian clothes, swatting at a panda named Hua Ni after she approaches him. The small animal can be seen recoiling in pain before moving away from the keeper.

Click here to see the disturbing video.

The footage has gone viral across Asian social media sites, eliciting statements condemning the breeder's behavior.

Sina news agency reports that the Sichuan Forestry Department confirmed the video is authentic, adding that the worker has been suspended and that an investigation was underway. Although officials say such rough handling is "unlawful," the center released a statement saying that striking pandas is actually a normal interaction.

"Pandas' claws and teeth can be very harmful," quotes TVNZ One News. "Keepers are told that they should gently hit the panda's ear or nose to make them go away."

Giant pandas rank among the rarest, most endangered animals on the planet, with roughly 1,000 left in the bamboo forests of southern China. The research and breeding center was established in 1993 to raise pandas in captivity in anticipation of their eventual release into the wild.