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HK-destined Pandas Placed in Isolation
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A pair of pandas chosen as a gift of the Chinese Central Government to Hong Kong in commemoration of the 10th anniversary of the HK Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) have been placed in one-month isolation.


Wei Jicheng, chief of the animal quarantine section with Sichuan Provincial Bureau of Quality Supervision and Quarantine, said they had begun to put the panda couple in isolation since the start of this month as required by the state laws and relevant regulations regarding inspection and quarantine of giant pandas listed for entry and exit.


According to Wei, the quarantine inspectors have been closely monitoring the isolated panda pair, currently without proper names, over a range of aspects including health status, behavior, psychological development, external traits, and heredity.


"So far, the couple are healthy and energetic," said Wei. "They are so lovely and I believe they will bring joys to their fans in Hong Kong."


Chief Executive of the Hong Kong SAR Donald Tsang asked the central government to send another pair of healthy, lively and fertile giant pandas last September. The request was approved in October.


The Hong Kong SAR government has launched a competition called "Name the Giant Pandas" on April 2, inviting the public to suggest names for the new panda couple as Hong Kong people's welcome gesture and their love towards the "national treasures."


When the competition ended on Wednesday, the government had received nearly 9,000 sets of names and the result would be announced in two weeks, according to the Ocean Park Hong Kong, the future home of the pandas.


The two pandas were selected out of 15 candidates after rigorous physical examinations on their weight, height, teeth, heart rate, breath, body temperature, blood and organs.


Both pandas were born in August 2005 at the China Panda Protection and Research Center in Wolong, Sichuan Province. The male young panda was presently identified as No. 606 and the female as No. 610.


The panda pair will be flown to Hong Kong via a Boeing 747-400F cargo plane on a charter flight that will be operated by China Southern Airlines (CSA) around May 1, according to corporate sources from CSA.


It is said that the panda pair will also have to undergo another month-long isolation before they can meet the public in late June.


The Central Government of China presented the first pair of pandas, "An An", 28, and "Jia Jia,", 29, to Hong Kong in 1999 as a gift to HKSAR. Both An An and Jia Jia now live at Ocean Park.


By December 2006, China has bred 217 pandas at its research centers and zoos in Beijing, Sichuan and Shaanxi.


On July 1, 1997, Hong Kong was handed over to Chinese rule, ending more than 300 years of rule by the British, and the HK Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) came into being on the same day.


(Xinhua News Agency April 15, 2007)


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