Mainland giant panda Tuan Tuan dies under anesthesia at Taipei Zoo, mourned as representative of goodwill for cross-Straits bonds
Published: Nov 19, 2022 05:49 PM


Male giant panda Tuan Tuan, who was gifted by the Chinese mainland to the island of Taiwan in 2008, passed away while under anaesthesia at 1:48 pm on Saturday at Taipei Zoo.

Tuan Tuan suffered three seizures on Saturday and was heavily medicated. They symptoms did not ease until extra doses were administered. Zoo veterinarians finally decided to let the animal pass away, Xinhua reported.

When asked about whether the euthanasia decision was made after communication with the mainland, spokesperson of the zoo said at a Saturday press briefing that the time did not allow. But the two sides have been in close contact in past days when Tuan Tuan's situation deteriorated rapidly.

The zoo said that it had hoped to administer anti-seizure medicine to treat Tuan Tuan's, but after testing, Tuan Tuan's physiological indicators were deemed irreversible. Leaving the zoo to decide to "let him go" in his sleep without suffering.

Tsao Hsien-shao, a spokesperson for the zoo, told the Global Times that condolence events will be held. But Tuan Tuan's death was rather sudden and condolence events need some time to be prepared.

There might be further checks and studies on Tuan Tuan's disease and Tsao said the zoo will try the best to preserve the body of Tuan Tuan, who represented the most harmonious and positive period for cross-Straits relations.

The Taipei Zoo will also try to use a new technology to preserve live cells into the biobank, Tsao said.

Some mainland netizens called for the panda to be returned to its hometown in Southwest China's Sichuan Province.

The Taiwan Affairs Office of China's State Council on Saturday expressed sympathy and sadness over Tuan Tuan's untimely passing. "We appreciate expert teams in both sides of the Straits and Taipei Zoo's efforts to rescue the panda and hope the two sides can continue exchanges and cooperation on panda preservation," said Zhu Fenglian, a spokesperson from the office.

After Tuan Tuan's death was announced, a related hashtag immediately topped searches on popular social media platform Sina Weibo, accumulating nearly 100 million views in one and a half hours.

People expressed their condolences and thanked the panda as a messenger of cross-Straits bonds.

Tuan Tuan and his partner Yuan Yuan were sent to the island of Taiwan in 2008. Yuan Yuan gave birth in 2013 and 2020 respectively to two cubs named Yuan Zai and Yuan Bao.

Tuan Tuan and Yuan Yuan's settling down in Taiwan marked the peaceful development of cross-Straits relations. They have brought about joy and beautiful memories to Taiwan compatriots, Zhu noted.

Today, people across the Straits express their condolences in different manners. Pandas, as a national treasure, should be cherished. The connection of peoples across the Straits and positive interactions should be cherished, the spokesperson said.

Their names combined are read as Tuan Yuan, meaning "reunion" in Chinese, were chosen during the Chinese New Year Gala in 2006 in front of a national audience.

Many Chinese netizens recalled the touching and exciting moment of sending a pair of pandas so that Taiwan compatriots were also enjoy their cuteness.

"I still remember watching the names to be announced when I was a kid. Now Tuan Tuan has left us, and that cross-Straits closeness has long gone," a Weibo user posted.

Tuan Tuan had been fighting seizures since August and recent medical checks confirmed he was suffering from necrosis in the brain. The disease progressed rapidly according to the results of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans the panda took on September 18 and again on October 22.

In past months, its diet and energy levels had continued declining and it also showed weakness in its hind limbs.

Two senior mainland vets had visited to help with treatment in late October.

Tuan Tuan celebrated its 18-year-old birthday in September. The life span of giant pandas in the wild is usually between 14 and 20, although they may live longer in captivity.