Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Panda Attacks Keeper at San Diego Zoo

Pandas make look cute and cuddly, but looks can deceive.

A San Diego Zoo keeper, whose name was not released, was bitten Sunday by Bai Yun, a 220-pound mama panda with five cubs.

Bai Yun -- whose name means "White Cloud" -- barged through a gated area during her morning feeding and bit the caretaker on the arm, according to the New York Daily News.

The zookeeper was rushed to the hospital. Details of her condition have not been released.

Sources say Bai Yun, 19, was lumbering around her sleeping quarters before the attack, then charged through an area that is usually protected with safety barriers to separate zookeepers from the animals.

The zoo was closed at the time, and officials say the area was not secure at the time of the attack.

Pandas are considered gentle creatures, but they have powerful jaws and are agile tree climbers, and it's not unusual for them to become violent, according to the Los Angeles Times.

"Most bears have a volatile temperament and can suddenly become aggressive," San Diego Zoo spokeswoman Christine Simmons told the newspaper. "Bai Yun is a normal panda who was in an abnormal area."

Bai Yun arrived at the San Diego Zoo in 1996 and has given birth to five cubs since 1998.

The giant panda is an endangered species and fewer than 2,500 survive in the wild, according to the conservationist group World Wildlife Fund.

Keepers describe Bai Yun as an "excellent and attentive" mother, and Simmons told 10News that this incident marks the first time a panda has attacked anyone at the zoo.

Meanwhile, Bai Yun seems to have let bygones be bygones, according to The San Diego Union-Tribune, which reports that she appears unaffected by the incident.

It's probably safe to assume she's not practicing kung fu moves either.


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