Sat, Dec 06, 2008 - Page 2 News List

Taipei zoo officials say panda facilities are ready

POLICE ESCORT When the two giant pandas arrive from China, officers will surround them on their journey from the airport to the zoo, where they will be quarantined

By Mo Yan-chih  /  STAFF REPORTER

Taipei City Zoo yesterday said it was fully prepared to welcome the two giant pandas that are scheduled to arrive in Taiwan before Christmas.

The two giant pandas were presented by Beijing as a gift to Taiwan. As a welcoming gesture for the two pandas, the zoo launched a Web site yesterday containing educational information about pandas and related activities.

The Web site will also feature video clips of the two panda’s lives in the zoo following their arrival, Taipei Zoo director Jason Yeh (葉傑生) told a press conference at Taipei City Hall yesterday.

Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF) Secretary-General Kao Koong-lian (高孔廉) on Thursday said the two pandas were expected to arrive before Dec. 25. Kao said that 17 seedlings of the Chinese dove tree, promised along with the pandas as a sign of cross-strait peace, were expected to be delivered at the same time.

Yeh said yesterday that the pandas would be transported under police escort to the zoo’s panda enclosure for a one-month quarantine period.

Yeh said the pandas would draw an estimated 6 million visitors to the Taipei Zoo in the first year. The zoo will issue numbered slips to visitors of the panda hall so they won’t have to wait in long lines, he said.

The zoo has also selected two experienced animal care technicians and 18 veterinarians to provide care of the pandas, Yeh said.

The public will get their first glimpse of the two pandas around the Lunar New Year holidays in the three-story panda house that includes two indoor exhibition halls and an outdoor show area, Yeh said.

China offered the pandas in 2005 as gifts to Taiwan, but the government of former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) nixed the idea, because China considered it a domestic transfer.

However, the Council of Agriculture approved the import of the animals immediately after President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) took office on May 20.

China’s Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait Chairman Chen Yunlin (陳雲林) and his Taiwanese counterpart, SEF Chairman Chiang Pin-kung (江丙坤), agreed in Taipei last month that the two sides would present each other with rare indigenous species of flora and fauna as tokens of friendship.

Under that agreement, Taiwan will reciprocate with a pair of Formosan serow — a type of goat — and a pair of Formosan sika deer.

Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Tien Chiu-chin (田秋堇) and the Environment and Animal Society of Taiwan yesterday accused the COA of lacking transparency in its review of the panda transfer.

They took the case to Control Yuan yesterday, requesting the government watchdog look into whether there was any negligence on the part of government officials in the review process.

Control Yuan member Huang Huang-hsiung (黃煌雄) accepted the group’s appeal and said the Control Yuan would look into it right away.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY CNA AND STAFF WRITER

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