How an ailing giant panda brought China, Taiwan together

By Lorena Cantó

Beijing, Nov 10 (EFE).- An ailing giant panda at Taipei Zoo has led China and Taiwan to join forces despite recent heightened tensions.

The two neighbors have come together to cure the animal that was once a symbol of a thaw in relations between them.

Tuan Tuan suffers from brain necrosis, possibly due to a malignant tumor.

In August, he began exhibiting symptoms like walking abnormally and epileptic seizures. A month later, he was diagnosed with the disease that progressed rapidly.

The 18-year-old has exceeded the life expectancy of wild pandas, who live between 15 to 20 years, even as those bred in captivity can live up to 30 years.

Despite an escalation in tensions between Beijing and Taipei since August after a controversial visit to Taiwan by United States House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the two sides have put aside their dispute and set to work to help Tuan Tuan.

On Oct.26, the Taipei Zoo announced that the panda would move into end-of-life care.

Less than a week later, two experts from the China Conservation and Research Center arrived in Taipei to work with their Taiwanese colleagues.

The objective was to stabilize Tuan Tuan and reduce his pain and suffering and determine the best course of treatment for him.

A week later, doctors Wu Honglin and Wei Ming returned to mainland China leaving behind their best wishes for the giant panda and with their mission accomplished.

Tuan Tuan is stable, walking and eating better and is calmer, the Taipei Zoo told EFE.

Due to his age and the advanced stage of the illness, Tuan Tuan will receive end-of-life care jointly decided by the veterinary teams in Taipei and Sichuan and tweaked as the tumor progresses.

Tuan Tuan is a symbol of more harmonious times between the two neighbors, located on opposite sides of the Taiwan Strait.

Tuan Tuan and his breeding mate, Yuan Yuan, were gifted to Taiwan in 2005 by then Chinese President Hu Jintao during a brief thaw in ties brought about by the visit to Beijing of Lien Chan, then president of the opposition Kuomintang Party of the self-governing island.

However, the pandas, whose names when combined to read Tuan Yuan, mean “unification” in Mandarin, did not arrive in Taipei until 2008 due to a bureaucratic and political controversy.

The Taiwanese government refused to receive them because China sent them as a domestic transfer between zoos, implying that Taiwan was part of the Asian giant.

China claims sovereignty over the island, which it considers a rebel province since the Kuomintang nationalists withdrew to the island in 1949, after losing the civil war against the communists.

In the end, the matter was resolved by writing “Taipei, Taiwan” and “Chengdu, Sichuan” as the destination and origin of the shipment on the paperwork, without any further details.

The two giant pandas went on to have two offsprings, Yuan Zai and Yuan Bao, born in 2013 and 2020 respectively.

Related Articles

Back to top button