Wed, Dec 24, 2008 - Page 4 News List

PANDA DIPLOMACY: Legislators split on two pandas

POP STAR ARRIVALS KMT lawmakers urged DPP lawmakers not to turn the panda gift into a political issue, while DPP legislators slammed the exploitation of the bears

By Meggie Lu  /  STAFF REPORTER

Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) legislators yesterday were upbeat about the arrival of two pandas from China, while the opposition slammed the exploitation of the animals’ for political purposes.

“We should return the favor and give China two indigenous Formosan rock-monkeys, one will be called ‘Tai-tai (台台),’ the other one ‘Du-du (獨獨),’ [taidu (台獨) means Taiwan independence in Mandarin] to express our appreciation for their gift,” Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Lin Shu-fen (林淑芬) told a press conference yesterday.

Lin’s comments were echoed by Environment and Animal Society of Taiwan director Wu Hung (朱增宏).

“The pandas’ names hold political meaning,” Wu Hung said, referring to the name given by China to Tuan Tuan (團團) and Yuan Yuan (圓圓), meaning “to reunite” in Mandarin.

Criticizing the exploitation of the pandas’ animal rights, he said that since China’s panda conservation efforts began in 1974, 600 panda cubs have been born, but only 241 survived.

“China’s conservation of pandas is a false effort,” he said.

While animals in the wild occupy habitats as large as 5km2, Tuan Tuan and Yuan Yuan will each have about 700m2 in the zoo, Wu Hung said, adding “unlike humans, pandas reside in solitude in the wild except during mating season, but these two are forced to be caged together.”

Wu Hung also criticized the way China filled out the export documents for the animals — specifically, how China entered the “import country” and “export country” fields.

Citing Mainland Affairs Council Deputy Minister Liu Te-shun (劉德勳), who on Dec. 11 said that the animals would be listed as being shipped from “Chengdu, Sichuan Province” to “Taipei, Taiwan,” Wu Hung said, “the political intent is very obvious.”

He said when Taiwan imported otters from Poland, Poland filled out the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) documents with “Taipei, PRC [People’s Republic of China],” and the Council of Agriculture demanded that it be changed to “ROC [Republic of China].”

“But [in the panda case] the country of import is ‘Taiwan, Taipei,’ while the country of export is only a city in China. It is demeaning to the sovereignty of Taiwan,” said Wu Hung, who is a former member of the COA’s Panda Case Review Committee.

In response, the Forestry Bureau yesterday said in a press release that the exportation document “did not lower the status of Taiwan.”

“Tuan-tuan and Yuan-yuan’s export papers followed administrative protocols and complies to the format of what the Bureau of Foreign Trade published in 2002,” a press release said.

According to the bureau publication, CITES appendix I and II animals and plants from China can either be handled by filing the CITES Permit/Certificate for Import/Export and Reexport, or China’s Permit for Wild Animal and Plant Import/Export, the bureau said, adding that in the case of the pandas, the latter was chosen.

“On the document, China cites Taiwan as ‘TW TAIPEI,’ which is in accordance with administrative standards and governmental regulations,” the bureau said.

DPP Legislator Lee Chun-yi (李俊毅) said yesterday that “if you want to observe [wildlife] you should do so non-intrusively, [but] now the pandas are like pop stars walking down the catwalk, that is animal torture … I would not encourage my family to go see the pandas.”

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