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Pandas to arrive at Taipei Zoo Dec. 23: Taipei City
Central News Agency
2008-12-22 07:27 PM
A pair of giant pandas China promised to give Taiwan in 2005 will finally arrive at Taipei Zoo Dec. 23, a Taipei city government official confirmed Monday.

Tuan Tuan and Yuan Yuan, whose names together mean "reunion, " should arrive at the zoo before 7 p.m, according to zoo officials, who added that the zoo has prepared an outdoor enclosure decorated with ferns and a footbridge, a sleeping area with all-season air conditioning and imported bamboo to welcome the two pandas.

Estimating that the pandas will consume up to 80 kilograms of bamboo shoots every day, the zoo will allocate NT$1.02 million (US$31,000) for bamboo expenses per year.

Upon their arrival, the pandas will be kept in quarantine for at least one month before they are introduced to the public, with zoo officials hopeful that the animals can make their debut around the Lunar New Year, which falls on Jan. 26 next year.

EVA Airways, which has been commissioned to fly the pandas from the southwestern Chinese province of Sichuan to Taiwan, has already sent an advance team to Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan Province, to go over technical details regarding the charter flight from Shuangliu Airport to Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport.

"Every arrangement will be made in the best interests of the pandas," said EVA Air spokesman Nieh Kuo-wei.

Chinese President Hu Jintao first offered the pandas to Taiwan as a gift of friendship in May 2005 when then-opposition Kuomintang (KMT) Chairman Lien Chan made an ice-breaking visit to Beijing.

However, the delivery was blocked by political bickering between Beijing and Taipei during Taiwan's time under the rule of the now-opposition Democratic Progressive Party, which objected to China's treatment of the panda transfer as a "domestic transfer" between zoos because it implies that Taiwan is part of China.

As giant pandas are an endangered species subject to the protection of the Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), cross-border transfers of the animal must follow strict CITES guidelines.

According to the guidelines, the two parties must supply export and import permits confirming that all conditions for the transfer have been met. This implies that the transaction is between two countries.

However, the issue was resolved under the governance of the China-leaning administration of President Ma Ying-jeou when both sides decided to sidestep the country name issue by agreeing to identify the importer as "Taiwan Taipei" and accepting "Chengdu" as the origin of export.

The two sides signed a formal agreement Nov. 6 on exchanges of indigenous rare fauna and flora species to symbolize their amity and determination to cooperate in wildlife conservation.

According to the Taipei city government, the pandas are expected to attract 6 million domestic and overseas visitors to the zoo each year. More than 5 million people visit the zoo each year to see its koalas, another of the zoo's flagship denizens.

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