Giant pandas Tuan Tuan (團團) and Yuan Yuan (圓圓) are adapting well to their new home in Taiwan and are beginning to consume food grown and made in Taiwan after their first night in quarantine, the Taipei Zoo said yesterday.
The zoo held a press conference where a 22-person Chinese delegation formally presented the pandas to Taiwan.
However, several Taipei City councilors from the pan-green camp held banners and dressed up as Formosan black bears below the stage, urging the government to treat Taiwanese people and animals with comparable decency.
“Tuan-tuan and Yuan-yuan yesterday began to eat after about 30 minutes of exploration of their new environment,” zoo spokesperson Jason Chin (金仕謙) said, adding that the pandas had slept well and made good bowel movements.
“The director of China’s Research and Conservation Center for Giant Pandas, Zhang Hemin (張和民), told us that in the wild mature pandas usually live in solitude [except during mating seasons], so it is very rare to see a pair of pandas getting along so well,” zoo director Jason Yeh (葉傑生) said.
Yeh also urged people to transfer their love for pandas to Taiwanese species and said pandas would help people respect life and care for the environment.
“Times have changed from ‘liking’ pandas to conserving them,” Chin said.
Prior to the conference, Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Taipei City Councilor Chuang Ruei-hsiung (莊瑞雄) told reporters that despite the unpleasant process by which the pandas arrived, which he said was “demeaning to our national integrity,” people should treat the creatures well.
Asked if he would bring his children to see the pandas, Chuang said: “Yes, and [my child] will see if there are better names for them, my son told me that they can be renamed Fen-yuan [粉圓, “tapioca balls] and Rou-yuan ([肉圓, a Taiwanese dumpling].”
Outside the conference, two of DPP City Councilor Wu Su-yao’s (吳思瑤) assistants donned Formosan black bear masks, and wore T-shirts that read “Du-du” (獨獨) and “Li-li” (立立).
Combined, the two terms mean “independence.”
There was a small commotion during a speech by Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌) when DPP Taipei City Councilor Hsu Chia-ching (徐佳青) held up two banners reading: “Maokong Gondola has become scrap metal” and “Ma and Hau shirk responsibilities.”
“The Maokong Gondola has murdered Wenshan District’s economy and ecosystem, and today with pandas the government is murdering Taiwan politically,” Hsu said. “I hope the government can treat Formosan black bears, our people and our animals as well [as the pandas].”
Hsu was confronted by Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Taipei City Councilor Wang Chih-bing (汪志冰), who accused her of having no class.
KMT Taipei City Councilor Li-Keng Kuei-fang (厲耿桂芳) then burst in and shouted: “Love the animals. Go and ask children if they like [the pandas]. Kids know no hatred.”
Zoo officials estimate that the animals will attract 6 million visitors in the first year. Added to sales of merchandise, the pandas are expected to add to the revenues of the zoo.
Chin said that the pandas would stay in quarantine for at least 30 days pending a health check.
“The priority is the health and welfare of the animals,” he said.
Between 20 and 30 employees at the zoo will be stationed in the panda exhibition hall to maintain order, Yeh said, adding that people wishing to see the creatures would get a number slip. Each visitor will get about 10 minutes inside the hall.