BEIJING, China – A drunken Chinese tourist bit a panda at the Beijing Zoo after the animal attacked him when he jumped into the enclosure and tried to hug it, state media said Wednesday.
Zhang Xinyan had drunk four pitchers of beer at a restaurant before “stumbling to the zoo” nearby and stopping off at the pen holding a sleeping 6-year-old male panda, Gu Gu, on Tuesday, the Beijing Morning Post said.
“He felt a sudden urge to touch the panda with his hand” and jumped over a waist-high railing down into the enclosure, the newspaper said. “When he got closer and was undiscovered, he reached out to hug it.”
Startled, Gu Gu bit Zhang in the right leg, it said. Zhang, a 35-year-old migrant laborer from central Henan province, got angry and kicked the panda, who then bit his other leg. A tussle ensued, the paper said.
“I bit the fellow in the back,” Zhang was quoted as saying in the newspaper. “Its skin was quite thick.”
Other tourists yelled for a zookeeper, who soon got the panda under control by spraying it with water, reports said. Zhang was hospitalized.
Newspaper photographs showed Zhang lying on a hospital bed with blood-soaked bandages and several seams of stitches running down his leg.
The Beijing Youth Daily quoted Zhang, a father of two who was visiting Beijing for the first time, as saying that he had seen pandas on television and “they seemed to get along well with people.”
“No one ever said they would bite people,” Zhang said. “I just wanted to touch it. I was so dizzy from the beer. I don’t remember much.”
Ye Mingxia, a spokeswoman for the Beijing Zoo, confirmed the incident happened but would not give any details. She said Gu Gu was “healthy and uninjured.”
“We’re not considering punishing him now,” Ye said in a telephone interview. “He’s suffered quite a bit of shock.”
China has more than 180 pandas living in captivity. A 2002 government census found there were just 1,596 pandas left in the wild.
But state media has said a new study by Chinese and British scientists has found there might be as many as 3,000.
In 2003, a college student trying to take a photo of a panda in the Beijing Zoo jumped into the enclosure and broke his bones in the fall, the Beijing Morning Post said.
It did not say which panda it was or if it attacked the student.