Animal-rights groups yesterday protested against China's plan to send two giant pandas to Taiwan, saying the endangered animals should remain in their natural habitat.
Ten animal rights groups expressed their stance after China announced yesterday morning that it will give a pair of pandas to Taiwan as a peace gesture. Taiwan welcomed the offer but said Beijing must hold official talks with Taipei on the issue.
"We are opposed to politicians' exchanging animals as gifts to achieve political aims. We think pandas should remain in their natural habitat and not be sent to Taiwan to be viewed by tourists," said Chu Tseng-hung (朱增宏), the director-general of the Environment & Animals Society of Taiwan.
"Taiwanese officials say they plan to approve receiving the pandas for education and research purposes. If that is true, Taiwan should contribute funds to the research on pandas in China," he said.
Chu said Taipei Zoo is already cramped and budget-strapped. Raising two pandas requires one-eighth of the zoo's budget and would make things worse, he said.
Chu said that even if public opinion polls show that the majority of Taiwanese welcome the pandas, animal-rights groups will still express their opposition.
More than 20 animal rights, environmental, social and women's groups said they will sign a petition against the panda plan, and will launch a signature-gathering drive on their Web sites, Chu said.
Pandas are endangered animals and their movements are strictly monitored by the UN Convention on International Trade and Endangered Species (CITES).
But CITES has said that it regards Beijing's giving pandas to Taiwan as China's internal affair and does not want to be involved in it.
The Taipei Zoo said it is ready to receive the pandas from China.
In recent years, Taipei Zoo has sent personnel to Washington, Tokyo and Beijing to learn how to care for pandas, spokesman Chao Ming-chieh (
"We are building a panda hall which can open next spring. Among the bamboo types pandas eat, several types of them grow in Taiwan," he said.