Outrage in China as giant panda on loan to Thailand zoo dies

Chuang Chuang reportedly collapsed after eating bamboo in Chiang Mai Zoo

The sudden death of a giant panda on loan to a zoo in Thailand has sparked outrage in China and calls for no more of the bears to be lent to the country.

Chuang Chuang, a 19-year-old male, reportedly collapsed on Monday afternoon after eating bamboo in Chiang Mai zoo in northern Thailand, according to Thai media.

While the death will be investigated by experts from the China Conservation and Research Centre for the Giant Panda, according to Chinese state media, the news has not placated social media.

Many in the online community say they still have questions about Chuang Chuang’s death and the quality of food and facilities at the Chiang Mai zoo, with his death a top trending topic on the Chinese social media platform Sina Weibo.

One user wrote: “Please don’t rent any more pandas to Thailand! No! Chuang Chuang is probably the most bitter panda in the world! What kind of bamboo he was given eat? If you can’t afford [a panda], don’t rent it.”

“You must take good care of our national treasures loaned to you, Thailand,” another user wrote. “Now Chuang Chuang is gone. It’s no use saying anything. If you can’t take care of our national treasures, don’t borrow them. I’m so sad.”

Many questioned China’s programme of loaning its endangered giant pandas abroad, part of its “panda diplomacy” in which zoos outside of China pay millions to host the animals.

Chuang Chuang had been on loan to the Chiang Mai zoo since 2003, along with his mate, Lin Hui.

“I hope they cancel the panda lease contract with Thailand, they are not as kind to animals as we think,” one user wrote. Another urged authorities to investigate the death, saying: “We don’t have to rent to countries that don’t take good care of [our pandas]”.

While Chuang Chuang and Lin Hui failed to mate while living in captivity together, Lin Hui gave birth to a cub in 2009 via artificial insemination.

A Sina Weibo user asked for Lin Hui to be returned home following Chuang Chuang’s death. “If you are unable to look after them, please return them,” they wrote. “Chuang Chuang has already lost [his] life. Please send Lin Hui home.”

Pandas live 14-20 years on average in the wild, according to the World Wildlife Fund, but they can live up to 30 in captivity.


Erin Hale in Hong Kong

The GuardianTramp

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