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Rumble in the Zoo: Panda 1 Man 0
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A drunk man leaped into Beijing Zoo's panda enclosure on Tuesday and found himself tussling with the paddock's denizen after his initial desire for "an intimate touch" proved unpopular with the panda. The man was rescued and hospitalized soon and the panda was isolated, a zoo official said.

Zhang Xinyan, 35, a Henan construction worker working in Renqiu, Hebei Province, traveled to Beijing for a two-day visit to see the panda. According to the Beijing Morning Post, he drank four jugs of beer at a nearby restaurant before staggering to the panda house.

The incident happened at 2:40 PM. Zhang said he suddenly felt an urge to touch the panda. Acting on his urge, he removed his coat and jumped into the panda's playground area profiting from the low fence.

Gu Gu, fast asleep at the time, did not immediately sense his guest and woke up startled. Zhang later explained that he is short-sighted and made a beeline for the panda, wanting to see it clearly and to hug it. Rudely awoken, Gu Gu avenged himself by sinking his teeth into Zhang's right leg.
As pain jolted through Zhang's leg, a red mist descended over him and war was declared. To retaliate, Zhang aimed a kick at the bear which fought back. Furious, Zhang dug his teeth into the bear's back in a maneuver that only highlighted the evolutionary advantages pandas possess over men. The tussle continued for 15 minutes until a zookeeper came to the rescue, spraying the panda with water and rescuing the fighter. Zhang was taken to hospital while Gu Gu was isolated.

"I used to see pandas on TV. They are so cute and friendly, eating bamboos and shaking hands with people. How could I imagine it would bite me?" Zhang said afterwards at the People's Hospital.

Zoologists explained that the giant panda is actually a wild animal that will attack when threatened.

The doctor treating the man said the muscle of his right leg was badly hurt though the bone was unharmed. It will take him at least two weeks to fully recover and his family has been contacted.

A female official of Beijing Zoo's information office told in a telephone interview today that they are very concerned about the man's health, and that no punishment had been considered as of yet.

"We have paid all his medical bills in advance. He has no money right now. And if we later find his family's financial situation isn't good enough, we will not ask him to pay us back. Now we think the most important thing is to cure him." She said, adding that the panda was shocked and had lost appetite. "It seems to feel a bit better today."

The police investigating the incident stated that forensic evidence confirmed Zhang's inebriated state and his violation of zoo regulations. Police said they will wait until Zhang recovers to give him punishment. 

Wang Baoqiang, vice president of Beijing Zoo, said that the man should be responsible for his actions, calling him "a grown man, not a psycho."
However, since unsurprisingly no law exists defending pandas from being beaten up, the man may not be found guilty of startling and biting the panda, regarded as one of China's most valuable treasures.

Wang also said that Beijing Zoo is installing electric monitors, one of which will keep an eye on the panda's playground in the future. He hoped tourists would improve their behavior and follow the rules, instead of needing to heighten the fence or erect protection glass.

The zoo and the animal would not be held responsible, said Liu Zhihui, a civil law professor from China University of Political Science and Law, since Zhang blithely ignored danger signs around the enclosure.

Zhang Xinyan is not the first to be hurt by the cute-looking animal. In February 2004, a student was bitten by a panda when he tried to please his girl by trespassing on the panda's territory.

There is no indication yet as to whether Zhang will challenge the panda to a rematch.

Gu Gu, the panda.

Zhang Xinyan

The danger sign outside the panda's playground. 

( by Zhang Rui and Chris Dalby, September 21, 2006)

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