The central government will present another pair of pandas to the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR) to mark the 10th anniversary of its return to the motherland, the State Forestry Administration (SFA) said in Beijing yesterday.
The pandas are expected to be ready to face the Hong Kong public in the first half of this year, said SFA spokesperson Cao Qingyao.
Cao said the SFA would select a pair of "lively, healthy and young" pandas for Hong Kong.
The Chinese mainland presented the first pair of pandas, An An and Jia Jia, to Hong Kong in 1999. The Hong Kong SAR government requested a second pair of pandas last September. The State Council approved the request two months later.
Senior officials from the SFA visited An An and Jia Jia last year. Now aged 18 and 26, the two pandas reside at the SAR's Ocean Park theme park and have fully integrated into the local community.
Cao said that another two pandas that had been specially chosen last year to go to Taiwan were in great health and just waiting to be allowed onto the island.
"All the preparations are completed. We hope Taiwan will take an open attitude so the pandas can travel to their new home at an early date and meet their public," Cao said.
"A lot of citizens and groups in Taiwan have already extended a warm welcome to the pair of pandas, named Tuan Tuan and Yuan Yuan."
The giant panda is one of the world's most endangered species and is found only in China. An estimated 1,000 live in Southwest China's Sichuan Province and Northwest China's Shaanxi and Gansu provinces.
Last year was a strong year for giant panda reproduction.
The 217 giant pandas that have been bred in captivity in China gave birth to 34 cubs through artificial insemination last year, SFA figures showed. Thirty of the cubs survived.
Both the number of cub births and the survival rate set records.
(China Daily January 11, 2007)