TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — The Kaohsiung City Government has confirmed media reports that China might offer two pandas to the city as an act of cultural exchange, saying it is likely to establish a preparatory group and make a journey to Chongqing City of China in June.
Pan Heng-hsu (潘恆旭), commissioner of Kaohsiung’s Tourism Bureau, confirmed through a Facebook post on Sunday that the city might be welcoming two pandas from China. A representative from China’s National People’s Congress said on Saturday that she would make the proposal to the Chinese authorities.
After the Kaohsiung City Council gives its consent, the tourism bureau will form a preparatory group to make a thorough plan for the importing and later the keeping of the animals, said Pan, adding that the group will also arrange a trip to Chongqing Zoo, where pandas are kept, in June.
Pan noted that having two pandas in Kaohsiung will not only promote exchanges between the two cities, but will also draw visitors to Kaohsiung’s Shou Shan Zoo, the city’s only public zoo, and increase tourism revenue.
The panda, a native breed in central China, had in the past been offered as gifts by the Chinese government to a foreign nation as part of the “panda diplomacy” until the 1980s. Pandas are now no longer given as gifts but offered as loans.
In 2008, Taipei welcomed two pandas, Tuan Tuan and Yuan Yuan, as gifts to Taipei Zoo shortly after former President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) assumed the presidency. The offer was initially proposed in 2005, but was rejected by former President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁).
According to the Council of Agriculture (COA) under the Executive Yuan, the import of pandas requires authorization issued by Beijing in accordance with the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), a treaty concerning endangered plants and animals.
In addition, the institute planning to receive the panda will need to apply to the COA and obtain permission from a COA review committee.
Chuang Hsuan-chih (莊絢智), a management director at the Shou Shan Zoo, said on Sunday the zoo will be glad to have two pandas, and it will start researching how to preserve pandas, including the environment and food, among other things.
Chuang said if it is confirmed that two pandas are coming to Kaohsiung, the zoo will build a conservatory for the pandas with thermostatic control between 18 to 22 Celsius degrees and controlled humidity between 60 to 70 percent.
The zoo will also cultivate bamboos suitable for feeding pandas, said Chuang, adding that it will consult with Taipei Zoo, if necessary.