Rafael Hui to inspect HK's likely new pandas

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 07 March, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 07 March, 2007, 12:00am

Chief Secretary Rafael Hui Si-yan will discuss the selection process for the pair of giant pandas to be sent to Hong Kong in May during a visit to the China Conservation and Research Centre for the Giant Panda in Sichuan .

Mr Hui, along with Permanent Secretary for Home Affairs Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor and Ocean Park officials, is due to arrive at the centre in Wolong tomorrow.

He will meet State Forestry Administration officials and panda experts to learn more about the giant pandas to be chosen from a pool of more than 15 candidates, all of which are about two years old.

An Ocean Park spokesman said the delegation would learn about how the pair of pandas would be selected and arrangements for transporting them to Hong Kong.

The delegation must travel for about two hours on a bumpy, 45km road from Dujiangyan to the Wolong National Nature Reserve to see the pandas.

The road is the only road out of the area so the first leg of the pandas' journey to Hong Kong was also likely to be rough. 'We will drive slowly and sit beside [the pandas]. We will know when they groan from motion sickness,' said Li Desheng, the centre's deputy director.

The State Forestry Administration announced in January that the central government would send a pair of giant pandas to Hong Kong this year to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the handover.

Huang Zhi, head of the centre's animal administration department, said the candidates for selection were all in perfect condition but it was difficult to say which would make the best breeding stock because giant pandas reach sexual maturity at the age of five or six.

He said all the candidates had been given names by their keepers but the names could be changed.