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Panda-monium at the Taipei Zoo
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The hottest star couple in Taiwan now are neither singers nor film stars - they are giant pandas.

In just two months, more than half a million people have visited the pandas at Taipei Zoo.

Now 4 and a half, Tuan Tuan and Yuan Yuan were sent as a gift from the mainland to Taiwan last December to symbolize the rapidly improving relations across the Straits.

According to the zoo, between 8,000 and 10,000 people visit the Panda House each weekday, rising to 20,000 on holidays.

To give visitors a better view, the zoo recently tightened the flow of visitors to the Panda House, keeping to between 300 and 400 people every 10 minutes during a weekday. Those wishing to gaze at the pandas longer have to line up again in a specified waiting area.

Even the TV monitors in Taipei's metro stations display updated information on how many viewing slots are available in the Panda House at any given time.

According to zoo officials, the couple have taken a liking to Taiwanese bamboos.

Every day, the zoo ensures a supply of 30-kg of 3-4 different varieties of bamboo. The pandas reportedly only eat about 10-kg of the best bamboo leaves and tender parts - and chuck away the rest.

Their diet is supplemented with apples, steamed corn bread and carrots to ensure better all-round nutrition.

Since this is the season for arrow bamboo shoots, one of the pandas' favorites, about 20-kg of fresh arrow bamboo shoots has been delivered from Taiwan's Hualien county to Taipei Zoo every two days for the last six weeks.

(China Daily April 24, 2009)

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