The Taipei Zoo is offering a "proof of life" photo in an attempt to debunk rumors that a prized panda died recently, the AP reports. Photos released by the zoo this week show 11-year-old Tuan Tuan looking at newspapers laid out in front of his inner enclosure to prove what day it is. The zoo's director said in a statement that Tuan Tuan, his partner Yuan Yuan, and their cub Tuan Zai are all fine. "We welcome everyone to visit them at the zoo," director Chin Shih-chien said.
The website of China's official Communist Party newspaper Global Times had reported the panda died of canine distemper, sending the story racing across the Chinese-language Internet. The paper later retracted the story and apologized for not checking its facts, a potentially egregious error given the political sensitivity surrounding the panda pair. Tuan Tuan and Yuan Yuan, whose combined names translate as "Reunion," were sent by Beijing to Taiwan in December 2008 following the election of China-friendly President Ma Ying-jeou as the island's leader. The rumors of Tuan Tuan's death came just days before the inauguration of Ma's successor, Tsai Ing-wen, whose party formally supports Taiwan's formal independence from China. (Read more panda stories.)