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Taiwan Pandas Short Listed
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A panda expert at a regular news briefing of the Taiwan Affairs Office (TAO) of the State Council said on Thursday morning that the two giant pandas the Chinese mainland wants to send to Taiwan will be chosen on the basis of which of the 11 nominated finalists appear to make the happiest couple.

Zhang Hemin, director of China Giant Pandas Research Center in Wolong in southwest China's Sichuan Province and head of the nine-member selection panel, said six males and five females have been short listed out of 23 for "trial marriages.”

"We will let the final candidates spend time with each other to see which two interact the best," Zhang said. "It's sort of a courting ritual."

"We must wait and see which couple is the soul mate as a female giant panda always has strict standards for her sexual partners," he said, adding that the "trial marriages" will last for at least three weeks.

The mainland offered Taiwan a pair of pandas at the end of the historic visit by Lien Chan, then chairman of the island's Kuomintang (KMT), in early May.

Li Weiyi, TAO spokesperson, called for a more active response from Taiwan regarding the pandas and announced that Lien, now honorary KMT president, will make a second visit to the mainland and is expected to visit Wolong.

(Xinhua News Agency October 14, 2005)

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