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Taiwan Cities Vie for Pandas
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After the Chinese mainland unveiled two pandas as gifts to Taiwan yesterday, a battle to host the two bears has already begun on the island, the website of Chinataiwan.org reported.


Taichung City and zoos in Taipei and Hsinchu all want the bears.


Xiao Jia-qi, vice mayor of Taichung, said the city will file an application with the Taiwan authorities next month to let the pandas settle in Taichung.


A non-governmental foundation has been established by the city's public, to finance the campaign.


The city has a plan to build a panda theme park, and the foundation will take charge of raising money for it.


Xiao said pandas will live in the location at Dakeng Forest Recreation Area in suburban Taichung, which will be exclusively set aside for them and be conducive to their reproduction.


Another advantage is that the environment there is similar to that in Sichuan Province where the two pandas lived. It will be easier for them to adjust to the new place, the city argues.


In addition to Taichung, zoos in Taipei and Hsinchu also expressed their desire to host the pandas.


Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou said yesterday that Taipei City Zoo has prepared a home for the pandas.


The zoo began preparations last year after the mainland decided to give a pair of pandas to the island in May. It is building a four-story special exhibition hall for the two pandas. The structural work is expected to be finished this month and the entire building will be completed in June.


The mainland yesterday chose two giant pandas to be offered to the island as a symbol of peace, unity and friendship.


The two pandas are now known only as No. 19, a male, and No. 16, a female. The mainland is collecting nicknames for them.


Compared to the high spirits of others, Li Guo and Xu Yalin, the panda couple's keepers had mixed feelings.


"We are reluctant to let them go, but we hope they can bring laughter to the Taiwan compatriots together with our blessing," said Li Guo, a 25-year-old young man who has taken care of "Xiaoguaiguai" since he was born.


(Shanghai Daily January 7, 2006)

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