Cuddly couple win over island hearts

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 24 December, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 24 December, 2008, 12:00am

The two giant pandas sent to Taiwan as goodwill ambassadors of the mainland spent their first night in a strange environment that will be their home for the rest of their lives.

But the two apparently adapted well. They were seen in video footage provided by Taipei Zoo chewing on their food heartily and playing together.

The more adventurous Tuan Tuan took his first stroll in the enclosure when he and Yuan Yuan arrived after a 10-hour journey from Yaan in Sichuan .

The four-year-old stood still for a while as if to acclimatise after he was let out of the cage.

Then the curious bear walked towards a wooden trunk, sniffed it a little and decided he did not like it.

He approached a log, where he found a lot of bamboo leaves.

Soon he was climbing up wooden trunks in the temporary enclosure set up inside the NT$300 million (HK$69 million) panda house for a month-long quarantine for the pair. His future mate, Yuan Yuan, seemed exhausted after finally being let out of the cage.

But she soon joined him in exploring and sharing their bamboo meal.

Footage of the pair, broadcast live in Taiwan, charmed islanders.

Zoo spokesman Jason Chin Shih-chien said it was a big relief that the pair had settled safely and acclimatised easily. The zoo had planned to tempt the pandas with apples so they would leave the cages, but there was no need as they walked out as soon as the doors were opened.

Zoo staff mixed their first meal with bamboo from Sichuan and Taiwan.

'We have prepared 5kg to 6kg of Taiwan-grown bamboo for them to try. The rest of the bamboo, about 30kg, is from Sichuan,' Mr Chin said, adding that he hoped Tuan Tuan and Yuan Yuan would be accustomed to the island's bamboo in about a week.