Wed, January 28, 2009
China > HK/Taiwan

Panda fever sweeps Taiwan

2009-01-27 14:41:09 GMT2009-01-27 22:41:09 (Beijing Time)  Xinhua English

A girl touches a giant panda toy near the enclosure of Tuan Tuan and Yuan Yuan, the two giant pandas from China, at the Taipei City Zoo in Muzha January 26, 2009. (Reuters/Pichi Chuang)

TAIPEI, Jan. 27 (Xinhua) -- A giant panda fever has swept Taiwan since a pair of pandas from the Chinese mainland made their official debut at a Taipei zoo Monday, the first day of Chinese Lunar new year.

A total of 18,899 people flocked to the Taipei Zoo to see the pandas Tuesday, according to the zoo.

Despite rainy weather, many lined up before the zoo in early morning, waiting to see the 4-year-old bears, "Tuan Tuan" and "Yuan Yuan" (together meaning "reunion").

More than 5,000 people visited the pandas within the first 90 minutes of the opening of the zoo Monday.

The zoo limits panda visitors to 22,000 each day.

The Taipei Rapid Transit Corporation, which operates the city's Metro system, on Tuesday launched two special trains which were painted with cartoon images of the pandas.

Launching the train, Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-pin urged the citizens to try to use public transport to the zoo in order to avoid traffic congestion. He then took the train with a group of children to the zoo.

The pandas, each weighing about 107 kg, completed a month-long quarantine that began when they arrived on Dec. 23.

The pair came from a nature reserve in southwest China's Sichuan Province as gifts from the mainland and became "sweethearts" of the island.

The city government estimates the pandas will attract about 6 million visitors to the zoo annually,

The mainland announced in May 2005 that it would give two giant pandas to Taiwan as a gesture of goodwill. Their departure was delayed for more than three years. Improved cross-Strait ties made their journey to Taiwan possible.

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.

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