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Mainland pandas to travel to Taiwan 'soon'
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The Chinese mainland is preparing to send two giant pandas to Taiwan "soon", said a mainland official on Wednesday while refusing to be drawn into giving a date for their departure.

Giant pandas Tuan Tuan and Yuan in the Bifeng Gorge Base of the China Panda-protection Research Center in Ya'an.

Giant pandas Tuan Tuan and Yuan in the Bifeng Gorge Base of the China Giant Panda Protection Research Center in Ya'an. Photo September 9, 2008

Panda experts were finalizing preparations for sending the animals to a Taiwan zoo, said State Council Taiwan Affairs Office spokesman Li Weiyi.

Mainland authorities were discussing with Taiwan authorities the exit and entry procedures, as well as quarantine measures, expert evaluations of zoo conditions and training for the zoo keepers, Li told a press conference.

Asked what measures were required to allow the pandas to travel to Taiwan by the end of the year, he replied, "With the joint efforts of the mainland and Taiwan, we hope the pandas, Tuan Tuan and Yuan Yuan, can go to Taiwan soon."

The 4-year-old pandas, one of China's most endangered animal species, are currently at a panda breeding base in Ya'an, western Sichuan Province.

They were transferred to the base on June 18 from the Wolong Nature Reserve, also in Sichuan, after it was seriously damaged in the May 12 earthquake.

The mainland announced in May 2005 it would donate two giant pandas to Taiwan to demonstrate goodwill. The pair chosen were named Tuan Tuan and Yuan Yuan (together meaning "reunion") as a result of votes from both sides of the Taiwan Strait.

But their departure has been delayed for more than three years.

Chen Yunlin, chairman of the mainland-based Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits (ARATS), on Tuesday also expressed his wish that the two pandas would leave for the island soon.

Visiting the breeding base in Ya'an, Chen said experts had agreed the pandas should be sent to Taiwan within a year to allow them to adjust to the new environment.

The Taiwan authority last month approved Mucha Zoo, a Taipei municipal zoo, as the new home for the pandas.

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