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Giant panda loaned from China dies in Thailand zoo

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

Zoo director Wuthichai Muangmun said the cause of Lin Hui’s death was not immediately clear, but she had been ill on Tuesday morning and was bleeding from the nose when she lay down after a meal.

He was taken under the care of a joint team of Thai-Chinese veterinarians but his condition worsened and he died in the early hours of Wednesday, they said.

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

Pongmanat Tasiri/SOPA Images/LightRocket Via Getty Images

Tevarat Wejmanat, a veterinarian who spoke in a live broadcast on the zoo’s Facebook page, said the panda, which had health checks every day, was already at the age of 21, and had no signs of illness or any There was no sign of. Difference in his behavior before he got sick.

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

Wang said that when China learned about the panda’s illness, it “immediately organized experts to guide the Thai side to carry out rescue work via video link, but unfortunately did not save his life.” He said Chinese authorities would soon set up a team of experts to jointly investigate the cause of death.

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

While the loan was ostensibly for research and conservation purposes, it was generally perceived as an act of friendship by China, which has sent pandas to several countries as a striking example of soft power diplomacy.

When Chuang Chuang died in 2019, Thailand’s then environment minister, Waravut Silpa-archa, said the country would have to pay $500,000 to the Chinese government as compensation. It was later reported that his cause of death was heart failure.

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

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

A giant panda’s life expectancy in the wild is about 15 years, but in captivity they have lived up to 38 years. Decades of conservation efforts in the wild and study in captivity saved the giant panda species from extinction, increasing their population from less than 1,000 at one time to more than 1,800 in the wild and 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 Douyin. One of them showed his nose, which looked bloody, and a red spot could be seen on his neck. In another clip, she was lying down licking her nose, and a concrete slab under her head was covered in red stains. Screenshots of the video were widely shared by Thai social media users.

Wuthichai said the cause of Lin Hui’s death would take time to be determined, and how and when it would be revealed would be entirely up to China. Under an agreement between the zoo and the Chinese government’s Panda Conservation Project, an autopsy cannot be performed unless a Chinese expert is present.

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