Chinese woman apologises after photographs of her petting giant panda cub cause upset online

PHOTO: Weibo

A Chinese woman has apologised for upsetting social media users after posting a picture of herself petting a giant panda cub at a wildlife reserve in southwest China.

"My careless behaviour out of love of pandas caused this misunderstanding," the university student, identified only as Han, wrote on Weibo, China's Twitter-like platform, on Sunday.

"I've always been an animal-lover and have two dogs … In the future I will be cautious and contribute to animal protection efforts."

A week earlier, Han had posted a photograph of her stroking the young bear at the Shenshuping base of the Wolong National Nature Reserve in Sichuan province.

The image, which showed only her hand and the cub, was captioned: "We met halfway and I finally petted a panda baby secretly!"

Signs at the centre ask visitors not to feed or pet the pandas.

Angry internet users wasted no time expressing their thoughts on the matter.

"Without sterilisation, bacteria from tourists can infect the panda and cause sickness. At the same time, pandas are bears … they should not come into close contact with humans," one wrote.

"She did not behave in a civilised way, how can she just randomly pet our national treasure?" wrote another.

Han's original Weibo post has been deleted, but screenshots of it remain online.

In an interview with West China City Daily on Monday, Han's mother said her daughter had not intentionally petted the bear.

"Three pandas climbed on top of each other and onto the fence," she said, adding it was like a "prison break" by attention-seeking pandas.

A worker at the Wolong centre said visitors should not climb over fences or feed or touch the pandas. The reserve was planning to make its fences higher, the person said.

This article was first published on South China Morning Post.