Hoaxes & Rumors

Panda Diplomacy Photo: Real or Fake?

Panda Diplomacy Photo: Real or Fake?

A photo shows a panda seated next to a man on an airplane, with the explanation that it was sent from China to Japan as part of “panda diplomacy.” Is this image real or fake?

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The photo is real, but the panda is not. 

Let’s take a look at the captions circulating with this photo:

A 2013 caption read:

This is a Real Panda. China has this “Panda Diplomacy” and this one will be sent to Japan as an friendship envoy. For safety reasons, he sits as a passenger with his feeder, not in a cage. Fastening the seat belt, wearing a diaper, eating bamboos.

A caption from late 2012 read:

China Airlines is a proud corporate sponsor of the panda sanctuary at Cheng Du and was happy to help out recently with the transfer of a young panda cub to a zoo in the United States of America.

After extensive consultation with the Sanctuary’s veterinary staff it was concluded that the importance of the panda cub precluded it from traveling in the hold of the aircraft, where attending to its needs would be difficult. Thus China Airlines agreed to donate seats in its Business Traveler First cabin for the panda cub named Squee Squee and his carer, Fu Jiang Lang, seen here sitting in the window seat.


Fake Panda

Although one could point out obvious flaws in the story itself, such as wild animals not being allowed in the cabins of commercial airlines, and no evidence that a famous panda named Squee Squee exists, the image can be debunked by comparing the panda in the airline photo with that of a real panda.


A side-by-side comparison of a real panda (left) with the panda in the airline photo (right) reveals several discrepancies:

  • Nose – The real panda’s nose is triangular, while the fake panda’s nose is round. The bridge of the real panda’s nose is also much straighter than the fake panda.
  • Fur – The real panda’s fur has variations in color, while the fake panda’s fur is uniformly black and white
  • Eyes – The circles around the fake panda’s eyes are much larger than that of a real panda.
  • Head – The fake panda’s head is much rounder than the real panda’s.
  • Ears – The ears on the real panda are not as wide as those found on the fake panda.

Bottom Line

The panda in the airline photo is not real. The man in the photo appears to have been flying with a large stuffed animal in an empty seat next to him.

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