Zoos and animal diplomacy

A pair of pangolins, Fazolka and Hugo, were sent to the Prague Zoo in May 2022. What’s special about Fazolka and Hugo is that they came from Taiwan, and they are the second pair of pangolins sent from Taiwan to European zoos.

On 11 October, the Prague Zoo announced that Fazolka is pregnant. If it delivers its babies safely in December or January next year, it will become the first pangolin successfully bred in Europe.

The news is exhilarating not only because it is a positive development of sister cities exchanges between Taipei and Prague, but also because pangolins are believed to be the world’s most trafficked non-human mammal. Among eight species of pangolin, Chinese and Sunda species are listed as critically endangered due to high levels of hunting and a dramatic decrease in populations.

Giant pandas from China are the most popular and well-known examples of animal diplomacy and loans among zoos around the world. Two pandas, Tuan Tuan and Yuan Yuan, were sent to Taiwan in 2008, and two cubs, Yuan Zai (meaning rice ball and the kid of Yuan Yuan) and Yuan Bao (meaning round baby and also the baby of Yuan Yuan), were born in 2013 and 2020, respectively.

Except for the newborn baby Yuan Bao, its daddy, 18-year-old Tuan Tuan, caught public attention lately for beginning to behave abnormally, lose appetite and suffer a three -minute seizure in late August.

Many Taiwanese were concerned about Tuan Tuan’s situation and hoped it would recover soon. After a magnetic resonance imaging scan and medical examination, the veterinarians diagnosed that the most possible cause to Tuan Tuan’s illness is inflammation or a tumor caused by an autoimmune disorder. And the Taipei Zoo is also considering seeking help from experts in China to treat the giant panda.

The Taipei Zoo was founded in 1914. It is not only the most famous zoological garden in Taiwan but one of the largest zoos in Asia, with a total area of 165 hectares.

The most popular and discussed animals in the zoo currently are giant pandas, collared anteaters, leopard cats, gorillas and Malayan tapirs. Among these “animal stars,” collared anteater Little Red and leopard cat Fei Fei, both are three years old, escaped the zoo in September and December 2020, respectively, and they have been in the spotlight since they were found and came back to the zoo.

Little Red has been a visitor-favorite since it arrived from the Singapore Zoo in August 2018. However, on 1 September 2020, it was discovered missing with its six-month-old baby. After checking surveillance footage, zookeepers found that Little Red climbed over the electric fence with its baby and escaped through a culvert at 2 a.m.

Zoo employees later located the baby anteater but the mother was still at large. After three months, Little Red was finally found in the mountain area in Taipei.

In fact, the Taipei Zoo has long been engaging in animal loans and trades with other zoos around the world. Like elephant Mali in the Manila Zoo, one of the first generation animal stars in the Taipei Zoo was also an elephant. During the Japanese colonial era, the Asian elephant Miss Ma came from Myanmar and arrived in Taiwan in 1926. Almost immediately, it became the favorite animal in the zoo for many Taiwanese and Japanese in Taiwan.

However, starting December 1943, due to World War II and some who were worried that animals might attack people if their fences were destroyed by bombs, zoo employees were ordered to kill bears, lions, tigers and elephants, and it is said that Miss Ma were among the animals killed.

Ape Ichiro Kun was another animal star in the Taipei Zoo during the Japanese colonial era which was gifted by the Tennoji Zoo in Osaka, Japan. In 1922, there was even a python becoming an overnight sensation after it swallowed an orangutan that lived next to it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *