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Mainland panda pair ready to travel to Taiwan
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Photo taken on December 11, 2008 shows Tuan Tuan and Yuan Yuan, the pair of giant pandas offered by the Chinese mainland to Taiwan, was happily fed.

Photo taken on December 11, 2008 shows Tuan Tuan and Yuan Yuan, the pair of giant pandas offered by the Chinese mainland to Taiwan, was happily fed.

The pair of giant pandas offered by the Chinese mainland to Taiwan are in good health and ready to depart for the island at any time, officials said in Chengdu Friday.

Two staff, a feeder and a veterinarian, from the Wolong Nature Reserve in southwestern Sichuan Province will accompany Tuan Tuan and Yuan Yuan, whose names said together mean "unite," to Taiwan, Deputy Director of the China Giant Panda Protection and Research Center Li Desheng told Xinhua.

Li didn't disclose the departure date, but the State Council Taiwan Affairs Office said earlier that the pandas are likely to arrive on the island in December.

The Taipei city zoo, which will house the two pandas, said last month that it expected the panda pair to arrive in mid-December so that they'd be ready for public display around the Lunar New Year after a one-month quarantine. The holiday falls on Jan. 26.

Li said the two staff selected to accompany Tuan Tuan and Yuan Yuan had worked at the reserve for many years and were "very experienced."

Li added: "They will cooperate with colleagues in Taipei to help the pandas adapt to their new life."

The two staff will bring a week's worth of the pandas' favorite food, such as steamed corn buns and fresh bamboo, Li said. Other necessities include medicines like motion-sickness pills.

The mainland announced in May 2005 it would donate two giant pandas to Taiwan. But their departure has been delayed for more than three years.

The 4-year-old pandas, one of China's most endangered species, were transferred to a breeding base in Ya'an in Sichuan after the Wolong Nature Reserve was seriously damaged in the May 12 earthquake.

Li said that after being shocked by the earthquake, Tuan Tuan and Yuan Yuan were emotionally unstable and lost weight. But they soon recovered.

"A recent physical check-up showed they are very strong and healthy and are ready for travel anytime," Li said.

After arriving in Taiwan, the panda pair will be housed in a four-story building in the zoo. The bears will have the first floor to themselves and an outdoor playground.

Five staff from the Taipei zoo have been at the breeding base since October.

"Even though they don't have the experience of taking care of pandas, they all majored in zoology so they learned very fast," Li said. "I think they have basically mastered the techniques of caring for pandas and disease control."

Qu Chunmao, the panda pair's current feeder, told Xinhua that the "Taiwan colleagues" observed Tuan Tuan and Yuan Yuan closely every day and talked with them in Mandarin and the Minnan dialect.

"They are already very familiar with the pandas. More important, it's obvious that they love Tuan Tuan and Yuan Yuan. I believe the pandas will be taken good care of in Taiwan," Qu said.

(Xinhua News Agency December 12, 2008)

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