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Taipei Zoo said Tuan Tuan, an 18-year-old male giant panda, is probably suffering from a brain tumour. Photo: AFP/Taipei Zoo

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
Veterinary experts from mainland China have been invited to Taiwan, zoo officials said on Friday, for a rare visit between the two sides after a male panda that symbolised an era of warmer ties was moved into end-of-life care.
Relations between mainland China and Taiwan have been on ice since 2016, with Beijing severing official communications and government visits between the two sides scrapped.
But Taiwan made an exception after Tuan Tuan, a male panda that was gifted to the island by Beijing in 2008, fell ill in recent weeks and appeared to be entering his twilight days.

Beijing says experts have offered to help treat giant panda at Taipei Zoo

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.


Giant panda Yuan Yuan gives birth to a second daughter in Taiwan

Giant panda Yuan Yuan gives birth to a second daughter in Taiwan
Tuan Tuan and his breeding mate Yuan Yuan were given to Taiwan by Beijing at a time when relations between the two sides were more cordial.

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.”


Taiwan giant panda cuddles doll to form maternal bond before reunion with her injured cub

Taiwan giant panda cuddles doll to form maternal bond before reunion with her injured cub
Beijing loans pandas to zoos abroad, which must usually return any offspring within a few years of their birth to join the mainland’s breeding programme.

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.

Panda diplomacy: the latest chapter for a safe space in US-China relations

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.