“The maps of China and the rest of the world at the panda enclosure are defective,” Chinese officials wrote in a letter to the zoo’s management after inspecting yin-yang shaped facilities designed for the bears by star architect Bjarke Ingels. The map showing the animal’s global distribution had marked the island of Taiwan in a different colour from mainland China, signalling its political independence.
After receiving the letter, zoo officials removed the map ahead of the delivery of the two pandas, Mao Sun and Xing Er, in April. “The Chinese made us aware that they consider Taiwan a part of China,” the zoo told the station. Bengt Holst, the zoo’s scientific director, added that zoo management had tried to sidestep the issue by replacing the sign with another showing the distribution of pandas in mainland China alone. “In this way we avoided taking a decision either way. We knew very well that no matter what we did with such a sign, we would come across as political, and we’re not interested in doing that, so we made a completely sign to avoid that debate,” he said.