Taiwan invites experts from mainland China to visit dying panda Tuan Tuan
- Taipei Zoo’s 18-year-old male panda, once a symbol of warmer cross-strait ties, enters palliative care after suffering seizures
- Veterinary specialists expected to observe health checks during seven-day stay on the island
Taipei Zoo said the vets would stay for seven days and observe, rather than conduct, health checks.
“The main purpose is to visit Tuan Tuan and see his present condition,” Taipei Zoo animal section chief Eve Wang said.
“They expressed their desire to come in person to visit Tuan Tuan. I also think it will be a very meaningful trip.”
It is not clear when the vets will arrive but Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council said on Wednesday they were processing their visa applications.
In a nod to the Communist Party’s goal of one day taking Taiwan, their names combined mean “reunion” or “unity”.
The couple became huge stars in Taiwan, and Yuan Yuan has since given birth to two female cubs.
“[Tuan Tuan] was small and so cute when he first got here,” said Heng Ling-lin, who brought her children to Taipei Zoo to sign get-well notes.
“He was like everybody’s baby.
“It breaks my heart now to see him like this.”
But Taiwan was granted an exception as part of a brief charm offensive Beijing launched in the late 2000s and was gifted Tuan Tuan, Yuan Yuan and any offspring they had.
Vets first noticed Tuan Tuan, 18, was ill in August when he began suffering seizures and appeared increasingly unsteady and lethargic.
Subsequent scans showed he had a brain lesion and he was placed on anti-seizure medication.
Earlier this week, Taipei Zoo said they suspected Tuan Tuan had a brain tumour and he was moved into palliative care.