Fears pandas could contract the deadly coronavirus have prompted the testing of 208 bears in China.
The black and white fluff balls at the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding all received tests after handlers became “very nervous” because animals in New York contracted the virus.
Several tigers and lions were diagnosed with the vrisu at the Bronx Zoo last month.
Zhang Zhihe, the secretary of the Chinese base, said all the pandas turned out to be healthy.
“Pandas suffer from many illnesses that can be caught by both humans and animals,” Mr Zhang told China Central Television Station
“So afterwards, we immediately arranged samples to be taken.”
The pandas have also been used as “therapeutic companions” to help people recover from the virus.
The keepers have made videos of the pandas and held live streaming sessions with them.
One patient, a girl in Wuhan, said she got a tailor-made documentary for her birthday present.
“We know that pandas have therapeutic powers,” Mr Zhang said.
“We hope their cute looks can help relieve (patients’) anxiety.”
The news comes after a Canadian zoo announced it was shipping two pandas home to China after the pandemic left them struggling to source bamboo.
Er Shun and her mate Da Mao have lived in the country since 2013 as part of a 10-year loan agreement with a breeding facility in Chengdu.
Calgary Zoo said it was cutting short the pair’s stay because the COVID-19 outbreak had disrupted transport links and made it harder to supply the 40kg of bamboo a typical adult panda eats each day.
Staff had worked to find alternative bamboo providers but there were concerns that supplies could be disrupted without warning and leave the animals hungry, the zoo said in a statement.
“Knowing a second wave of COVID-19 is likely … the Calgary Zoo feels it’s critical to move the beloved giant pandas back to China where there are abundant local sources of bamboo,” the statement said.
The zoo is currently closed due to the pandemic and said it would not be able to allow the public to bid farewell to the animals.
An estimated 1864 giant pandas are living in the wild and 548 in zoos and breeding centres around the world.
– with AFP