Taipei, March 10 (CNA) Several zoos in mainland China have conveyed to the Taipei City Zoo their interest in raising Formosan serows that are endemic to Taiwan, Chao Ming-chieh, head of the zoo's animal division, said Tuesday.
The zoos expressed the interest after learning that Taipei will ship a pair of Formosan serows - a goat-like animal - and two Formosan sika deers to the mainland as a gift in exchange for two of China's Giant Pandas, Chao said.
The exchange of animals are seen as goodwill gestures by the two sides of the Taiwan Strait as they seek to repair long strained ties.
Taiwan and China last November signed an agreement for the exchange of the animals, and the pandas -- named Tuan Tuan and Yuan Yuan -- arrived in Taiwan in December.
Currently, the Taipei zoo is working to select a pair of Formosan serows at optimum mating age to be shipped to China, Chao said.
Regarding reports that said the Taiwanese animals will have their new home at the Beijing zoo, Chao said that Taiwan's Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF) and its Chinese counterpart of the Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits (ARATS) are still working on when will be best time for the serows to set off for their journey and where they can settle down.
SEF and ARATS are two intermediary bodies tasked with handling cross-strait exchanges in the absence of official links.
However, Chao said, the Taipei City Zoo will not ship other Formosan serows to other Chinese zoos until the first pair are given to China.
Meanwhile, the population of Formosan serows are expanding.
In the first two months of the year, the Taipei city zoo received the birth of five Formosan serow babies. The newborns expanded the herd of the animal to 38 heads, according to Chao, who is in charge of a Formosan serows conservation program.
Chao called the population expansion a remarkable achievement in reviving the native species that is under governmental protection as a rare wildlife in Taiwan.
The Formosan serow is a type of small goat known for its agility and ability in climbing mountains. Both males and females grow with a distinctive pair of crescent-shaped horns on the head.
The serows have dark-brown fur, except for some light-brown around its cheeks and throat. Most serows live deep in the mountain forests, from the foothills up to about 3,500 meters.
Serows eat many different kinds of plants, including firs, ferns, spruce and cypress leaves, and lick rocks in order to get the salt that they need. They are Taiwan's only native species in the bovine family, according to the city zoo. (By Elizabeth Hsu)