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Taiwan flight leaves for mainland to pick up pandas
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A Taiwan-based Eva Air flight left Taipei Monday morning for the mainland to pick up two pandas offered to Taiwan as a gesture of goodwill.

The plane took off from Taipei at 8:30 a.m.. It is expected to arrive at the Shuangliu Airport in Chengdu, capital of southwest China's Sichuan Province, at 12:10 p.m.

It will return to Taiwan with the panda pair, Tuan Tuan and Yuan Yuan, whose names together mean "Reunion," at about 5:00 p.m. Tuesday.

Two staff, a panda keeper and a veterinarian, from the Wolong Nature Reserve in Sichuan will accompany the pandas to Taiwan.

They will bring with them a week's worth of the pandas' favorite food, such as steamed corn buns and fresh bamboo. Other necessities include medicines like motion-sickness pills.

After arriving in Taiwan, Tuan Tuan and Yuan Yuan will be housed in a four-story building at the Taipei city zoo. They will have the first floor and an outdoor playground to themselves.

Five staff from the Taipei zoo have been at the breeding base in Sichuan since October to become familiar with the pandas.

The mainland announced in May 2005 it would donate two giant pandas to Taiwan. Their departure has been delayed for more than three years. Improved cross-Strait ties make their journey to Taiwan possible.

The 4-year-old pandas, one of China's most endangered species, have been living at a breeding base in Ya'an, Sichuan, for the past several months. Their previous home, the Wolong Nature Reserve, was seriously damaged in the strong earthquake that struck southwest China on May 12.

The pandas are expected to meet the public during the Spring Festival, the Chinese lunar new year, but this will depend on how they adapt to the new environment, Yang Hsiao-tung, director of Taipei's "department of information and tourism", said earlier.

(Xinhua News Agency December 22, 2008)

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