Wed, Oct 08, 2008 - Page 3 News List

Taipei, Beijing to exchange animal gifts: Chiang

By Ko Shu-Ling  /  STAFF REPORTER

Taipei and Beijing have reached a consensus on bringing two giant pandas that China has offered to Taiwan, Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF) Chairman Chiang Pin-kung (江丙坤) said yesterday.

Chiang said Taipei would not get the animals on loan, but both sides would offer animals to each other as gifts.

However, the government has yet to announce whether Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait (ARATS) Chairman Chen Yunlin (陳雲林) would be coming to Taiwan with the two pandas. Chen has expressed his hope that he could bring the two pandas when he visits Taipei later this month or early next month.

Chiang said yesterday that there are procedures for importing endangered species that have to be followed.

Procedures governing Chen’s upcoming trip are different and “the public should not connect the two things together,” Chiang said.

He said that details on accepting the pandas are still being arranged by the Mainland Affairs Council (MAC), Council of Agriculture (COA) and Taipei City Zoo, while those on Chen’s planned visit are being handled by the SEF and ARATS.

The MAC has a different take on the issue, however.

Speaking during a question-and-answer session at the legislature earlier yesterday, MAC Chairwoman Lai Shin-yuan (賴幸媛) said that the issue of Chen visiting the country later this month was under discussion, but the ARATS chief would not be arriving with the pandas.

“China’s gift of two giant pandas will not arrive in Taiwan at the same time as Chen, as quarantine issues have not yet been settled,” Lai said.

The MAC chief repeated that the two endangered animals would be brought to Taiwan only when the necessary quarantine measures were put in place.

Beijing offered Taiwan two giant pandas during former Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) chairman Lien Chan’s (連戰) trip to China in 2005.

The government of former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) nixed the offer because it said China considered the offer a “domestic transfer” between zoos.

The COA approved the import of the animals shortly after President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) took office on May 20.

Noting that the import of pandas is subject to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) legislators have said that “if any government official dares to accept the pandas as a gift, the DPP caucus will file suit against them for corruption and inappropriate acceptance of gifts.”

Pandas are listed as an Appendix I animal under CITES, which is an agreement between governments to ensure that the trading of wild animals and plants do not hurt these species’ prospects for survival. Animals and plants listed in Appendix I are those under the threat of extinction and are prohibited from being traded commercially.

In related news, Taipei Zoo director Jason Yeh (葉傑生) said yesterday that the zoo would complete all preparatory works by the end of this month whether or not the pandas would be arriving by then.

Yeh said the zoo will send formosan serow and formosan sika deer to China in exchange for Beijing’s gift of two pandas.

The zoo has spent NT$300 million (US$9.9 million) to build a 1,400m² facility to house the pandas.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY MO YAN-CHIH AND STAFF WRITER

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