Chinese veterinary experts have been invited to Taiwan, zoo officials said Thursday, for a rare visit between the two sides after a male panda that symbolized an era of warmer ties was transferred to end-of-life care.
Relations between China and Taiwan have been on ice since 2016, when Beijing severed official communications and canceled government visits between the two sides.
But Taiwan made an exception after Tuan Tuan, a male panda who was gifted to the island by Beijing in 2008, fell ill in recent weeks and appeared to be entering his twilight years.
The Taipei Zoo said the Chinese vets would stay for seven days and observe rather than carry out medical checks.
“The main goal is to visit Tuan Tuan and see his current condition,” Eva Wang, head of the animal section of the Taipei City Zoo, told reporters.
“They expressed their desire to personally come to Tuan Tuan. I also believe that it will be a very meaningful trip,” she added.
It is not yet clear when the vets will arrive, but the Taiwan Mainland Affairs Council said on Wednesday that it was reviewing their visa applications.
Tuan Tuan and his tribemate Yuan Yuan were handed over to Taiwan by Beijing at a time when relations between the two neighbors were warmer.
In a nod to the Chinese Communist Party’s goal of one day taking over Taiwan, their names together mean “reunification” or “unity.”
The couple became big stars in Taiwan and Yuan Yuan has since given birth to two cubs.
China only lends pandas to foreign zoos, which typically must return the offspring within a few years of their birth to join the country’s breeding program.
But Taiwan was granted an exemption as part of China’s brief charm offensive that began in the late 2000s, and has been completely gifted to both Tuan Tuan and Yuan Yuan and any of their descendants.
Vets first noticed Tuan Tuan, 18, was ill in August, when he began having seizures and appeared increasingly unsteady and lethargic.
A follow-up scan showed he had brain damage and he was put on anti-seizure medication.
Earlier this week, Taipei Zoo said it suspected Tuan Tuan had a brain tumor and was transferred to palliative care.
Beijing has long deployed “panda diplomacy” and the gift of Tuan Tuan and Yuan Yuan was a move seen to support the presidency of then-Beijing-friendly leader Ma Ying-jeou.
China views Taiwan as part of its territory and has vowed to one day bring the self-governing, democratic island back under its rule, if necessary by force.
Relations deteriorated in 2016 when Tsai Ing-wen was elected president.
Beijing hates Tsai because she sees Taiwan as an already sovereign nation, not part of “one China.”
Under President Xi Jinping, Beijing has since increased economic, military and diplomatic pressure on Taiwan.
© 2022 AFP
Citation: Taiwan invites Chinese veterinary experts as beloved panda nears death (October 28, 2022) Retrieved October 28, 2022, from https://phys.org/news/2022-10-taiwan-chinese-veterinary-experts-beloved .html
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