The band aired footage of members holding Fu Bao — the first panda to be born in South Korea — in a clip posted to YouTube this month, Reuters reported.
According to South Korea’s Yonhap news agency, Fu Bao was born at the Everland Resort theme park, about 20 miles south of Seoul, to pandas sent to the country in 2016 from China’s Sichuan province.
A caretaker carries panda cub Fu Bao during a ceremony to reveal her name at Everland Amusement and Animal Park in Yongin.
JUNG YEON-JE/AFP/Getty Images
For years, China has sent giant pandas abroad as a sign of friendship and cooperation between Beijing and other countries — part of a campaign known as “panda diplomacy,” fostering ties between governments while also offering foreigners a chance to see the rare animals in person.
But Blackpink’s clip, which showed band members touching the animal and was due to be aired as part of the band’s “24/365 with BLACKPINK” reality series, generated an angry response. The clip is no longer available to view online.
China’s Wildlife Conservation Association issued a statement asking Everland Zoo to immediately stop allowing non-professional contact with giant panda cubs, claiming the zoo “violated the professional requirements for the protection of giant pandas” in allowing band members contact with the animal.
“On November 5, the China Wildlife Conservation Association sent a formal letter to South Korea’s Everland Zoo after the zoo violated the professional requirements for the protection of giant pandas as it organized performance-related personnel to have close contact with giant panda cubs and producing entertainment programs,” the association said in a statement.
“Here we ask the zoo to stop playing and disseminating related content videos. [We suggest to the zoo that] it is necessary to further strengthen management, scientific management and protection, and resolutely prevent such incidents from happening again,” the association said.
Blackpink said they had decided to postpone the release of the show, scheduled to be uploaded on November 7, but said the visit with the panda was conducted in the presence of professional veterinarians and breeders, and following “strict anti-virus management and hygiene rules.”
The K-pop band have postponed the release of their reality show, they said in a statement.
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Still, users of the Chinese social media platform Weibo expressed anger. In the comment section of a news post detailing Blackpink’s statement, thousands demanded an apology from the band.
“They didn’t explain why they touched the baby panda with heavy makeup! ” one user wrote, while another popular comment read: “BLACKPINK should apologize.”
Others directed their irritation at the theme park, with one popular comment asking: “What was Everland doing? They are professionals. Jeez..”
Giant pandas are among some of the rarest animals on the planet, though efforts to preserve the species have shown some success in recent years. There are only an estimated 1,800 of the creatures, which are considered “vulnerable,” living in the wild, according to the World Wildlife Fund.
CNN’s Chandler Thornton contributed reporting.