Fri, Dec 12, 2008 - Page 4 News List

China to bypass animal export treaty

TIGHT-LIPPED Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin refused to comment on the country’s title in the import documents for the two giant pandas, which are named ‘Unification’

By Ko Shu-ling and Mo Yan-chih  /  STAFF REPORTERS

The two giant pandas that are expected to arrive in Taiwan before Christmas stand up at their home in China’s Sichuan Province on Wednesday.

PHOTO: CNA

China is likely to bypass the international export treaty for endangered species and classify the export of the two giant pandas it wishes to give Taiwan as a domestic transfer, the Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) said.

MAC Deputy Minister Liu Te-shun (劉德勳) said that on the export document for the two animals, they would be listed as being shipped from “Chengdu, Sichuan Province” to “Taipei, Taiwan.”

Liu said filling in the export documents in this way was common practice when Taiwan imports endangered species of wild herbs and animals from China.

MAC Chairperson Lai Shin-yuan (賴幸媛) agreed, saying that she did not know how the names came about but “isn’t it nice that the name of Taiwan showed up” on the document.

“There are precedents to follow,” she said. “We just do whatever we are supposed to do.”

When asked why the council had declined to give a specific answer regarding the origin of export and destination of import, Lai said the media posed the question to the wrong agency as the Council of Agriculture (COA) was actually responsible for the matter.

Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌) declined to comment on the title of the country on the import document, and said it would respect the Straits Exchange Foundation’s authority on the issue of the national title.

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

Former president Chen Shui-bian’s (陳水扁) government objected to importing the two animals because China considered the offer a “domestic transfer” between zoos, and therefore Taiwan would have admitted it was part of China if it had accepted the free gifts.

The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora stipulates that the transfer of endangered species between two countries must abide by the covenant.

However, the COA approved the import of the endangered animals shortly after President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) took office in May and chose Taipei Zoo to house them.

During Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait Chairman Chen Yunlin’s (陳雲林) visit early last month, both sides announced that in addition to the two giant pandas, China would give Taiwan 17 Dove Tree saplings, a native plant in China known as “green panda,” in appreciation for Taiwanese assistance and hospitality after the Sichuan Earthquake in May.

In return, Taiwan would give Beijing one pair of Formosan sika deer and one pair of Formosan serow.

Meanwhile, Hau said yesterday that the city government expected the pandas to arrive in Taipei before Dec. 24, and that the public would be able to see the pandas in the zoo by the Lunar New Year holidays after a one-month quarantine period.

Taipei City Government spokesman Yang Hsiao-tung (羊曉東) will visit the Giant Panda Habitat in China’s Wolong Nature Reserve on Monday to discuss the transportation of the two pandas, Hau said.

“The arrival day and how the pandas will be transported will not be finalized until we reach a consensus on what’s best for the pandas with our Chinese counterparts,” Hau said yesterday during a media gathering at Taipei City Hall.

Two panda care technicians will leave for the reserve this morning to get more familiar with the animals.

Yang said he had contacted both China Airlines and Eva Air yesterday morning, and would select one of the two to fly the pandas to Taiwan.

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