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A giant panda died in a Thai zoo on loan from China

A giant panda on a long-term loan from China died Wednesday at a zoo in northern Thailand, six months before it was due to return home, Chiang Mai Zoo officials said.

The cause of Lin Hui’s death was not immediately clear but he appeared to have fallen ill on Tuesday morning, and was seen bleeding from his nose while lying down after a meal, zoo director Utthichai Muangmun said.

He was taken under the care of a joint Thai-Chinese veterinary team but his condition deteriorated and he died on Wednesday morning, he said.

Chinese panda Lin Hui

Chinese giant panda Lin Hui at the Chiang Mai Zoo in Thailand on January 16, 2023.

Getty Images via Pongmanat Tasiri/SOPA Images/LightRocket

Speaking at a press conference broadcast live on the zoo’s Facebook page, veterinarian Tewarat Vejmanat said the panda, which underwent daily health checks, had already reached an advanced age of 21 and had no signs of illness or symptoms. Differences in behavior before illness.

“China is deeply saddened by the death of giant panda Lin Hui,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said in Beijing.

Wang said that after learning of the panda’s illness, China “immediately organized experts to instruct the Thai side to carry out rescue operations via video link, but unfortunately could not save his life.” He added that Chinese authorities would soon form a team of experts to conduct a joint investigation to find out the cause of death.

Lin Hui’s male companion, Chuang Chuang, who was kept with her at Chiang Mai Zoo, died there in 2019 at the age of 19. The couple came to Chiang Mai in 2003 on a 10-year loan that was later extended for another 10 years. year

Although the loan was ostensibly for research and conservation purposes, it was generally regarded as an act of friendship by China, which has sent pandas to many countries in what it considers an interesting example of soft power diplomacy.

When Chuang Chuang died in 2019, Thailand’s then Environment Minister Bharout Silpa-Archa said the country should pay $500,000 to the Chinese government as compensation. It was later revealed that the cause of his death was cardiac arrest.

Zoo director Uttichai said the zoo has a 15-million-baht ($435,000) insurance policy on Lin Hui, who was due to be returned to China this October.

Lin Hui and Chuang Chuang gave birth to a daughter, Lin Ping, through artificial insemination in 2009. In 2007 a scheme to encourage pandas to mate naturally by showing them videos of sex made headlines. Lin Ping was sent to China in 2013 for what was initially said to be a one-year visit to find a partner, but stayed there.

A giant panda’s lifespan in the wild is about 15 years, but in captivity they live up to 38 years. Decades of conservation efforts in the wild and studies in captivity saved the giant panda species from extinction, increasing its population from less than 1,000 at one time in the wild and more than 1,800 in captivity.

A Chinese influencer living in Thailand who identified himself as Shanshan visited the zoo on Tuesday morning and posted several videos of Lin Hui on the Chinese social media platform Dowin. One of them shows his nose, which looks bloody, and a red mark on his neck. In another clip, he was lying down licking his nose, and had red marks on a concrete slab under his head. Screenshots of the videos were widely shared by Thai social media users.

It will take time before the cause of Lin Hui’s death is determined, Utthichai said, and how and when it will be revealed will be entirely up to China. Under an agreement between the zoo and the Chinese government’s panda conservation project, an autopsy cannot be performed until a Chinese expert is present.

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