Pandas vie for island diplomatic mission

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 04 June, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 04 June, 2005, 12:00am

Seventeen pandas from Sichuan province have been shortlisted as 'diplomatic' candidates to be sent across the Taiwan Strait to advance the central government's strategies on Taiwan.

All information on the pandas, including their pictures, will be published on the website of the Cultivating and Communicative Association of Pandas on Both Sides of the Strait on Monday, Chang Cha-chi, the president of the Taiwan-based non-profit organisation yesterday said in the provincial capital, Chengdu .

'As soon as we get back to Taipei, we're getting down to business of preparing for the pandas to enter Taiwan.'

The association plans to conduct a telephone poll of 1,000 Taiwanese citizens to gauge their reaction to the mainland's 'panda diplomacy'.

The poll will also ask which giant pandas islanders would like to see in the Taipei zoo and what Chinese names they would like to give the pair, Mr Chang said.

Zhang Hemin, director of Sichuan's Wolong Giant Panda Research and Conservation Centre, said one female panda and one male aged between 18 months and four years would be selected from the 17 candidates, of whom eight are male and nine are female.

Only four of them are at the Wolong centre, which has the most prestigious panda programme in the country.

Nine others are staying at another research centre in the province, Mr Zhang said, and the remaining four were in other mainland cities.

The selection criteria would include fitness, fertility and adaptability, Mr Zhang said.