Girl falls into panda enclosure in Sichuan, China

Neither the little girl nor any of the pandas were hurt in the ordeal.
PHOTO: Youtube/yun ni

A young girl had a frightening encounter with three giant pandas on Saturday after falling into their enclosure at a reserve in southwest China.

The child, who was not identified but appeared to be of primary school age, fell about two metres (6½ feet) into a trench surrounding the bear's grassy mound at the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding in Sichuan province, Beijing Youth Daily reported on Sunday.

Footage of the incident showed one of the bears approaching the crying child as scores of people stood and watched. However, it appeared to be only curious and made no attempt to the climb down into the ditch.

After efforts to rescue the child using a thin pole failed, a security guard leaned through a gap in the fence and despite losing his cap in the process managed to pull her to safety.

As the dramatic rescue unfolded, two more bears ambled over to watch, but they too appeared more curious than threatening.

Despite the girl's ordeal, a member of staff defended the safety measures in place at the reserve.

"The railings are quite high, so unless you climb over them it would be impossible to fall in," she was quoted as saying.

The video footage, however, shows the fence is only about a metre high with plenty of gaps that a small child could easily squeeze through.

The report did not say how the girl got into the enclosure, but the worker said that neither she nor the bears suffered any injuries.

Sichuan is one of only a handful of places where giant pandas can still be found in the wild, and the reserve in Chengdu, the provincial capital, is one of several dedicated to their protection and survival.

It is also a popular tourist attraction and welcomed more than 30,000 visitors during the Lunar New Year holiday period, the report said.

This article was first published in South China Morning Post.