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Taipei zoo welcomes mainland panda pair
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The Taipei zoo opened its new panda house to the public and media on Thursday, showcasing its full efforts to welcome the giant panda pair presented by the mainland.

The new panda house covers an area of 5,500 square meters with an investment of 300 million New Taiwan dollars (9.1 million U.S. dollars), said Jason Yeh, the zoo director.

The two pandas, Tuan Tuan and Yuan Yuan, will live in two rooms, 254 square meters and 210 square meters respectively.

The rooms' inside wall is painted with pictures of snow-capped mountains, dense forest and rivers, resembling the southwestern Sichuan Province where they came from.

The airconditioning system will keep the room temperature at 18 to 22 degrees Celsius and the indoor humidity level at 60 to 70 percent in the summer, which is much hotter on the island than Sichuan, Yeh said.

They will also enjoy a 765-square-meter garden enclosed by glass, which is 4-cm-thick and noise-proof.

"We will also ask visitors to lower their voice and avoid using camera flash so as not to disturb their lives," Yeh said.

The rest part of the panda house are the visitor service center, souvenir shop and cafe.

The house was open to the visitors in the first opening hour of the zoo Thursday morning.

A lot of kids were seen taking photos inside the panda house.

"The new panda house is very big and has lots of plants. I think Tuan Tuan and Yuan Yuan will love their new home. My dad and mom have promised to bring me here to see them when they live here," said Chao Chin, a fourth-grade primary school student from Taipei county.

Thursday's opening is a trial run for the panda house, said Yeh. He expected the house to receive 25,000 visitors daily, 500 every ten minutes.

The panda pair is scheduled to travel to the island on Dec. 23, the State Council Taiwan Affairs Office spokesman Li Weiyi told a press conference in Beijing Wednesday

They are expected to meet the public at the Spring Festival, the Chinese lunar new year, but this will depend on how they adapt to the new environment, said Yang Hsiao-tung, director of Taipei's department of information and tourism.

(Xinhua News Agency December 19, 2008)

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