Tuan Tuan, Yuan Yuan attract capacity crowd

'PRICEY': While the Panda Hall was filled to capacity for the first time, there were complaints about being rushed, as well as the expensive food and souvenirs

By Mo Yan-chih  /  STAFF REPORTER

Thu, Jan 29, 2009 - Page 2

The daily number of visitors to the newly opened Panda Hall at Taipei Zoo reached its full capacity for the first time since it opened on Monday, with the 22,000 numbered slips all gone by around 1pm yesterday.

The zoo had estimated that more than 100,000 people would try to visit the hall on Monday amid the panda frenzy. However, the two pandas, Tuan Tuan (團團) and Yuan Yuan (圓圓), only attracted about 18,000 visitors on the first two days of the Lunar New Year holiday.

Thanks partly to the warm weather yesterday, visitors began to line up outside the zoo long before the doors opened at 8:30am and the parking lot near the zoo was full before noon.

Taipei Zoo director Jason Yeh (葉傑生) said the number of visitors to the zoo usually reached a peak on the third day of the Lunar New Year holiday, after families had completed observance of all New Year traditions and began planning trips for the rest of the holiday.

Although the zoo extended the visit time allotted to each visitor in the hall to about 14 minutes, visitors continued to complain about being rushed through the exhibit. The zoo also received a growing number of complaints about pricey food and souvenirs in the hall.

A girl surnamed Chen accused the panda gift shop in the exhibit for raising the price of panda hats from NT$199 to NT$280 a day before.

“This hat was NT$199 yesterday, and it cost me NT$280 today. It's too pricey, and I don't understand why they increased the price of the hat from yesterday,” she said.

Ma Yu-yu (馬玉宇), manager of the gift shop, said all the NT$199 hats had sold out on Tuesday, and the new hats were more expensive because they were made of better quality materials.

The two pandas remained active yesterday, eating bamboo, wrestling and following each other around their compound. In response to speculation that Yuan Yuan was in her estrous cycle, Yeh said the two pandas, both four years old, were just playing.

The pandas would not be reproductively active until March to May, he said.

Yeh said the pandas ate six meals a day and normally took a nap after having lunch at 12pm.

The zoo suggested that visitors avoid visiting the exhibit at noon as the pandas would most likely be sleeping around that time.

The zoo encouraged visitors to call 02-2920 8889 ext. 8800 for information about the updates on the remaining number of visitors' slips before heading to the zoo.

The Taipei City Government urged the public to take public transportation to the zoo to avoid traffic jams.

Until the Lunar New Year holiday ends on Sunday, the zoo is open daily from 8:30am until 5:30pm. Normal operating hours (9am to 5pm) will resume on Monday.