Wed, Dec 24, 2008 - Page 4 News List

PANDA DIPLOMACY: Pandas make people care: zoo

STAFF WRITER, WITH CNA

The arrival of the giant pandas has triggered debate on the legitimacy of exchanging endangered species between countries, but the director of the Taipei City Zoo said international exchanges were necessary to sustain the existence of endangered species.

To preserve a diversity of life forms, efforts must be made to educate the public when a species is on the brink of extinction and inspire people to protect and take care of species that share the planet with human beings, Jason Yeh (葉傑生) said.

Yeh said that in the field of biological conservation, so-called “flagship species” such as the giant panda not only help generate long-term benefits for the endangered species itself, but also raise public awareness of the need to protect all animals facing extinction.

By guiding people to love and care for pandas, people may begin caring for other species and pay attention to the deterioration of the animals’ natural habitats, which are being destroyed by human activity, he said.

“This is the most important task” of the zoo’s animal display, Yeh said.

Since China announced in 2005 it would offer a pair of giant pandas to Taiwan as a gift of good will and friendship, the Taipei City Zoo has been planning and building a modern panda house that it hopes will reflect the zoo’s role in biological and ecological conservation and educating the public.

Yeh said that since 2005, the zoo had sent 17 veterinarians and animal keepers to Beijing, Xian, Shanghai and Hong Kong as well as San Diego and Washington in the US, and Chiang Mai in Thailand to see how other facilities had managed pandas.

Yeh said that introducing pandas into Taiwan was not to create a circus show for commercial gain.

“All the efforts the zoo has made over the past several years to acquire knowledge in caring and breeding for the animals reflect its devotion to wildlife preservation,” he said.

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