YA'AN, Sichuan, Dec. 23 (Xinhua) -- A pair of giant pandas offered by the Chinese mainland to Taiwan left here Tuesday for the island.
The pandas left Ya'an, Sichuan, at around 8:20 a.m. in an enclosed truck. They would first be transported to Sichuan's provincial capital of Chengdu, about 120 km from Ya'an, and then be flown to Taiwan on Tuesday afternoon.
Before their departure, the pandas had their breakfast - carrots and steamed corn buns.
A brief ceremony was held at the Bifeng Gorge Base in Ya'an.
Zhang Hemin, head of the China Giant Panda Protection and Research Center in Wolong, said at the ceremony he hoped the pair would bring happiness to Taiwan compatriots.
A set of special stamps were first issued on Tuesday in Ya'an to mark the event.
The mainland announced in May 2005 it would donate two giant pandas to Taiwan. Their departure was delayed for more than three years. Improved cross-Straits ties make their journey to Taiwan possible.
The four-year-old pandas, Tuan Tuan and Yuan Yuan, had been living at a breeding base in Ya'an, Sichuan Province, since the May 12 strong earthquake which damaged their former home in Wolong.
Qu Chunmao, the pair's keeper in Ya'an, spoke through tears, "I wish them a happy life in Taiwan."
A Taiwan keeper, who would accompany the pair to the island, said the pandas were in good condition.
"They had a good breakfast to sustain them on the long journey," she said.
Staff accompanying the pandas will bring a week's food for the pandas such as steamed corn buns and fresh bamboo.
Tuan Tuan and Yuan Yuan will be housed in a four-story building at the Taipei city zoo. They will have the first floor and an outdoor playground to themselves.
The pair are expected to meet Taiwan residents during the Spring Festival, the Chinese lunar new year, after a one-month quarantine period, but that depends on how they adapt to the new environment.
Giant pandas are among the world's most endangered animals. There are about 1,590 pandas living in China's wild, mostly in Sichuan and the northwestern provinces of Shaanxi and Gansu. Through 2007, there were 239 captive bred giant pandas in the country.