(ECNS) -- The office of Ma Ying-jeou, former leader of the island of Taiwan from 2008 to 2016, issued a statement on Saturday, expressing condolences for the passing of Tuan Tuan, the giant panda gifted by the Chinese mainland to Taiwan, along with Yuan Yuan in 2008 that symbolized peace, unity, and amity.
The two pandas featured a period of thriving exchanges and sincere communication between the people on the two sides, the office said.
“We hope that more animals like ‘Tuan Tuan’ would appear in the future to promote integration and people-to-people exchanges between the two sides. We also hope Tsai Ing-wen could practically promote civilian exchanges and clear up contradictions between the two sides,” the office said.
Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je thanked Tuan Tuan in a post for bringing happiness to Taiwan people and making Taipei Zoo a wonderful place.
Zhu Fenglian, spokesperson for the State Council's Taiwan Affairs Office, said in a statement on Saturday that "Fourteen years ago, their arrival in Taiwan was a significant symbol of the development of peaceful relations between the two sides.
For years, they have brought joy and good memories to our compatriots in Taiwan," Zhu said, adding that people from both the mainland and the island were expressing condolences and recalling their memories of Tuan Tuan in different ways.
The 18-year-old panda died at 1:48 p.m. on Saturday, Taipei Zoo announced.
The animal had been experiencing frequent seizures since Thursday and suffered a further spate in the early hours of Saturday morning until 7 a.m., when veterinarians administered anti-seizure and calming medications.
The zoo said that the panda was anesthetized and given a CT scan, after which the team decided to let Tuan Tuan continue to sleep since the results indicated the panda's condition was irreversible and it could no longer live a quality life.
The zoo will retain Tuan Tuan's bones and fur to create a replica.
"If possible, we will also collect Tuan Tuan's living cells, which refers to sperm, eggs, fertilized eggs and even body cells and stem cells," said Cao Xianshao, spokesperson for Taipei Zoo.