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Mainland panda pair celebrate New Year
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The panda pair from the mainland "happily" celebrated the New Year with special food, sound sleep, quiet stroll and intimacy, said an official with the Taipei zoo

Tuan Tuan and Yuan Yuan (the pandas' names)'s New Year staple food was local bamboo plus a few from their hometown, mainland's Sichuan Province, as well as some steamed hard-bread roll, apples and carrots, the official said.

He said Thursday was the last day for the pair to have Sichuan bamboo in their meals. From Friday on, all their bamboo would be local.

The panda pair's weight was slightly down, but within an "acceptable" range, he said.

Zoo spokesman Jason S.C. Chin had said, "At the beginning they refused Taiwan bamboo. Now they are getting used to it."

According to the zoo, the pair embraced the New Year with a sound sleep thanks to the soundproofing equipment in the zoo which blocked Taipei downtown's New Year carnivals.

After more than an hour's dinner on the New Year's Eve, Tuan Tuan strolled to the ladder and slept there. Yuan Yuan chose to sleep in the "buffer zone".

At 1:20 on Thursday, the first day of 2009, Yuan Yuan woke up, had some bamboo and went to Tuan Tuan and intimately slept together till 7:30. In the morning, they gently touched and leaned against each other.

The Taipei zoo has built a new house for the pandas. They are living in two rooms, measuring 254 and 210 square meters respectively. The inside wall is painted with pictures of snow-capped mountains, dense forest and rivers, resembling the southwestern Sichuan Province of their origin.

They also have a 765-square-meter garden and playground enclosed by 4-cm-thick, noise-proof glass.

"Our next task is to well serve a large number of visitors when the pandas meets the public," Chin said.

The zoo will improve security measures by stationing police at the panda house and adding more security staff to maintain order, he added.

(Xinhua News Agency January 2, 2009)

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