Taipei City Government will form a task force soon to facilitate its bid to host the two giant pandas that China has offered as gifts to the Taiwanese people, Mayor Ma Ying-jeou (
Ma said that the city government's "panda task force," to be headed by his deputy Yeh Chin-chuan (
Noting that the zoo has been preparing for nearly 10 years to accommodate pandas, Ma said construction of the zoo's panda quarters is expected to be completed in the near future. He added that zoo keepers have been receiving special training on caring for pandas and that the funds required for the project are also in place.
PHOTO: GEORGE TSORNG, TAIPEI TIMES
After Shoushan Zoo in Kaohsiung decided to compete for the right to house the pandas, Ma said that Kaohsiung is welcome to enter the competition, although he believes Taipei is more capable of taking care of the animals.
Ma urged government agencies to accelerate their screening and assessment procedures on the import of the pandas so that the animals can be welcomed to Taipei's zoo when their new home is built, scheduled for early next year.
Stressing that pandas are protected by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) and that there are only about 1,000 left in the world, Ma said that having them at the Taipei City Zoo would not be simply for entertaining visitors, but also to show the zoo's capabilities in conserving, nurturing and studying special wild animals.
The two pandas, very likely to be provided by the Wolong Panda Conservation District of Sichuan Province, are expected to attract more than 1 million extra visitors to the zoo each year if they are allowed to be brought to Taipei, Ma said.
Council of Agriculture Chairman Lee Chin-lung (
Local environmentalists meanwhile started a campaign yesterday to oppose Beijing's offer of two pandas, citing rehabilitation of the rare animal as their major concern.
Speaking at a joint news conference, activists from more than 30 environmental protection and animal conservation groups unanimously called on politicians on the two sides of the Taiwan Strait to stop sending animals as a gift to each other and urged them not to use the lives of innocent and endangered animals "in the name of peace" for their political games.
They decried Beijing's decision to send two pandas to Taiwan as an abuse of the endangered animals and contended that Chinese and Taiwanese leaders should make sure the pandas continue to live in their original habitat if they really care about the rehabilitation of these rare animals.
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