A huge panda that China gave Taiwan in 2008 has passed away after suffering from ill health, according to Taipei Zoo. When ties between China and Taiwan were more amicable, Tuan Tuan and Yuan Yuan, his breeding companion, were given to Taiwan.

However, since then, the situation has deteriorated, with Beijing which has long viewed Taiwan as a breakaway province - becoming more aggressive.

Tuan Tuan started having seizures in August, which is when the zoo first became aware of his illness. Scan results revealed he had a brain lesion, and after examination by Chinese vets, he was given medication.

A zoo statement claimed that the 18-year-old bear's illness had become "irreversible" and that he was unable to "live a quality life." Even mainland Chinese vets have been requested by Taiwan to assess Tuan Tuan as he transitions into end-of-life care.

The team chose to "let Tuan Tuan continue to sleep" after the panda had heavy anesthesia earlier on Saturday for CT scans. "It would have been extremely painful and risky for Tuan Tuan to resuscitate him from the anesthesia," spokesperson Eric Tsao said.

Although the two bears were given away when ties between the neighbors were friendlier, their combined names really imply "reunion" or "unity," which is perhaps a hint to China's intention to one day reabsorb Taiwan. Taiwan is seen by Chinese President Xi Jinping as a part of Chinese territory, and in a speech he gave last month in Beijing to kick off the Communist party Congress, Mr. Xi refused to rule out using force to unite Taiwan with China.

For more than 50 years, China has used its pandas to strengthen diplomatic ties with other nations. The country only lends pandas to foreign zoos; these zoos typically have to return any offspring to China within a few years of the birth of the animal in order to participate in the nation's breeding program.

Pandas have been regarded as a national treasure ever since Mao Zedong, the founder of the Chinese Communist Party, utilized them as a means of advancing political negotiations with other nations. Yuan Yuan gave birth to two female cubs, Yuan Zaibap in 2013 and Yuan Bao in 2020, and Tuan Tuan and Yuan Yuan became major tourist attractions after arriving in Taipei.

On Instagram, Taipei mayor Ko Wen-je hailed the panda for "bringing happiness to Taiwanese people and making Taipei zoo more wonderful" as fans grieved Tuan Tuan's demise.