Taiwan rolls out bamboo carpet for China pandas
By Ralph Jennings
TAIPEI (Reuters) - Taiwan is rolling out the bamboo carpet for two superstars from China, a sometimes political rival which has taken a softer, more cuddly approach to relations of late.
Taipei Zoo has prepared a penthouse-sized outdoor garden decorated with ferns and a footbridge, a bedroom with all-season air conditioning and imported bamboo to welcome Tuan Tuan and Yuan Yuan, a pair of Chinese giant pandas.
The pandas, whose names said together mean "unite," are set to reach this zoo compound on Tuesday as a goodwill gift from China, which seeks to unite politically with Taiwan.
"Children think they're cute, plump and should be conserved," said Tsai Hsin-hua, a teacher who escorted 150 screaming fourth-graders through the panda zone on Thursday as part of a zoo demo to see how crowds behave around the bears.
In a sign of the times, the zoo has done everything for the animal ambassadors, which China first offered in 2006 but which Taiwan's then anti-China president declined.
It spent T$300 million ($9.24 million) on the enclosure and a four-storey panda theme exhibition next door and plans to spend about T$10 million per year on upkeep. The pair will be attended by some 35 zoo staff, as well as numerous other volunteers.
China has claimed sovereignty over Taiwan since 1949, when Mao Zedong's Communists won the Chinese civil war and Chiang Kai-shek's KMT fled to the island. Beijing has vowed to bring Taiwan under its rule, by force if necessary. Continued...