The Taipei City Government will dispatch envoys to Beijing this week to convey its desire to allow a pair of China's giant pandas to be brought here, but the city first needs to gauge whether Chinese authorities are acting out of genuine friendliness in offering the animals, officials said yesterday.
City government spokesman Yang Hsiao-tung (羊曉東) told a news conference that a delegation would depart for Beijing today to discuss China's offer of a pair of giant pandas.
Giant pandas are listed as grade-one protected species by the Chinese government. There are only 1,590 pandas living in the wild. China has another 239 in captivity, with 27 living outside the country, on loan from the Chinese government.
After winning a landslide victory in Saturday's presidential election, president-elect Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) said he would welcome a pair of pandas.
Beijing offered Taiwan a pair of pandas in 2005, while Ma was Taipei mayor, following former Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) chairman Lien Chan's (
However opposition from pro-independence supporters who branded the offer a propaganda ploy scuttled the chances of the pandas coming to Taipei, with the administration of President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) eventually rejecting the offer.
The Council of Agriculture (COA) had also rejected the zoo's application for a permit to import the pandas, citing environmental concerns and misgivings about the zoo's ability to properly care for the endangered species.
The zoo then filed an appeal with the Administrative Court in Taipei, which is scheduled to deliver its verdict tomorrow.
Yang said that the zoo would deliver a revised import proposal to the council in a renewed bid to acquire the pandas.
Yang said that a three-story panda exhibition hall under construction at the zoo would be completed in June.
The facility is planned with the possibility that the pandas might breed. The hall is equipped with a panda nursery on the first floor.
The zoo has also planted bamboo -- the pandas' staple diet -- on six hectares in the zoo's park, and has dispatched a group of 20 zookeepers to the US for training on how to take care of pandas, Yang said.
"Taipei is ready" for the pandas, Yang said, adding that if the animals did come, the city government would launch panda-themed tour packages to attract more tourists.
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