A little over a month after the pandas Tuan Tuan and Yuan Yuan arrived in Taiwan, Taipei Zoo officials are preparing to help them reproduce.
Tuan Tuan and Yuan Yuan, the two giant pandas from the Chinese mainland as gifts, eat bamboo leaves inside their new enclosure at the Taipei City Zoo in Muzha January 24, 2009.
The zoo even has a plan to show them videos of pandas mating, Xinhua News Agency reported.
Ye Jie-sheng, director of the zoo, said he hoped the pair would produce cubs by next spring.
The zoo has arranged daily training for the pandas to help them increase their physical strength and mutual intimacy.
Food has been hung at the top of climbing facilities to urge them to exercise their rear legs, which play an important role in giant pandas' mating habits, Xinhua said.
Yuan Yuan, the female, has shown some signs of being on heat, but the sexual life between the two should be better after she has matured, officials at the zoo said.
Zookeepers have started collecting the pair's excrement and urine every day to test hormone levels. Tuan Tuan is still very quiet, Ye said.
Pandas are sexually receptive between March and May. But most only show an interest in the opposite sex for one or two days.
The gestation period for a female panda varies between 90 and 160 days, with an average pregnancy lasting 135 days.
The four-year-old bears were first displayed at Taipei zoo last Monday, the first day of the Lunar New Year, after a month-long quarantine period expired.
More than 5,000 people visited them within the first 90 minutes of the opening of the zoo last Monday.
A total of 18,899 people flocked to Taipei Zoo to see the pandas the next day. The zoo limits panda visitors to 22,000 each day.
The pandas, each weighing around 107 kilograms, arrived at the zoo on December 23, 2008.
The pair came from a nature reserve in the mainland's southwest Sichuan Province. They were presented as gifts from the mainland and have become the fascination of thousands of people on the island.
The city government estimates the pandas will attract about 6 million visitors to the zoo annually.
The mainland announced in May 2005 that it would give two giant pandas to Taiwan as a gesture of goodwill, but their departure was delayed for more than three years. Improved cross-Strait ties made their journey to Taiwan possible.
Giant pandas are among the world's most endangered animals. There are about 1,590 pandas living wild in China, mostly in Sichuan and the northwestern provinces of Shaanxi and Gansu.
Up until 2007, 239 giant pandas have been bred in captivity in China's mainland.
(Shanghai Daily February 2, 2009)