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American Volunteer Bitten by Panda in SW China
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An American woman was bitten on the thumb by a panda cub Tuesday morning while she was feeding it bamboo in a nature reserve in southwest China.


The woman, Lisa, a 50-year-old American tourist, had registered at Wolong nature reserve as a volunteer. After first aid treatment at a local hospital, she was transferred to Huaxi hospital in Chengdu, capital of southwest China's Sichuan Province.


20 percent of Lisa's right thumb was bitten off, said a doctor with the hospital.


She was feeding a panda bamboo Tuesday morning, wearing a pair of gloves, said Zhang Hemin, director of Wolong Giant Panda Protection and Research Center.


Suddenly, the panda bit into her thumb. When she cried out, the cub became excited and gripped more tightly. Lisa finally managed to wrench herself free.


Lisa neglected warnings and violated rules when she was feeding the panda, said Zhang.


Visitors are supposed to maintain a distance from the pandas and not touch them except in the company of professionals, warned panda breeding expert Li Guanghan.


The Wolong Giant Panda Protection and Research Center has been recruiting volunteers globally since 2004 in order to promote the protection of the panda, one of the most endangered species in the world, said Zhang Hemin.


Volunteers can prepare food, feed pandas under supervision and clear the enclosure with the help of professional keepers, added Zhang.


Volunteers serve for a short period of time (1-7 days), a medium period of time (7-15 days) or a longer period of time (above 30 days) in the center.


More than 1,200 foreign volunteers - mostly from America, Japan, Switzerland, France and Spain - have already worked in the center.


The Wolong Nature Reserve, 120 kilometers from Chengdu, the largest panda reserve in the world, has 98 pandas bred in captivity, as well as 16 cubs born in 2005. The reserve was listed as a World Heritage site in July this year.


In September, Zhang Xinyan, 35, a migrant laborer who wanted to hug a panda, was bitten on the leg after jumping into the panda enclosure at Beijing Zoo.


(Xinhua News Agency October 19, 2006)

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