For April Fool’s Day this year, a Taiwanese news site succeeded in making a lot of people freak out over dying pandas.
NextMedia reported that the giant panda family living at the Taipei Zoo had become infected with intestinal parasites. While Tuan Tuan (dad) and Yuan Zai (cub) were expected to recover, Yuan Yuan (mom) was seriously ill.
Then the fake story went there. It dropped the E bomb:
“Taipei Zoo officials have been discussing euthanizing her as well as having a public dissection much like Copenhagen Zoo recently did with its giraffe Marius.”
"NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!," screamed everyone in Taiwan.
The zoo was immediately flooded with frantic calls and queries, forcing it to explain that the whole thing was someone’s idea of a joke. And that actually, the pandas were all doing fine and no, they weren’t about to be put down.
“To help pacify concerns, the zoo released photographs showing an energetic Yuan Yuan at the zoo,” reports Agence France-Presse.
Yuan Zai (R), the first Taiwan-born baby panda, and her mother Yuan Yuan at the Taipei City Zoo on January 6, 2014. (Mandy Cheng via AFP/Getty Images)
But Taipei’s panda-loving mayor, Hau Lung-bin, did not appreciate the emotional roller coaster. “All the three pandas have been in good shape,” he stated through a spokesperson. “We don't know the motive of the story. The joke has been taken too far."
If it sounds like the pandas are some kind of national treasure, that’s because they are.
China gifted the two adult pandas to Taiwan in December 2008. This gesture of panda diplomacy came seven months after Taiwan’s new president, Ma Ying-jeou, took office and began normalizing relations with China after 60 years of political tensions.
The combination of their names, Tuan Yuan, means “unite” in Mandarin Chinese. (Nudge, nudge!)
Tuantuan (R) and Yuanyuan, the two giant pandas to be sent to Taiwan, play at the China Giant Panda Protection and Research Center on August 15, 2008 in Yaan, China. (China Photos via Getty Images)
Panda cub Yuan Zai — whose name means "little round thing" — was born in July 2013 and debuted to the public this January. While all three pandas are zoo favorites, Yuan Zai is particularly beloved as the first panda to be born on Taiwanese soil.
The latest prank isn’t the first time that Taipei's pandas have featured in an April Fool’s Day joke.
In 2009, shortly after Tuan Tuan and Yuan Yuan arrived, a Taiwanese newspaper claimed they were actually forest bears in disguise:
"Taipei Zoo official Connie Liu was quoted in the hoax story as saying she became suspicious after the pandas, a species famous for their low libidos, began spending all of their time having sex. She said she then discovered that the animals were Wenzhou brown forest bears dyed to disguise them as rare pandas."
In other words, this is neither the first nor likely the last panda prank. Until next time, enjoy this ridiculously cute video of the Taipei Zoo’s pandas having a romp.