Reports claiming the central government plans to present Taiwanese opposition leader Lien Chan with a gift of two pandas during his trip to Beijing have received a cool response from officials in Taipei, who pointed out importing the endangered species requires special approval. 'The panda is one of the species protected under the Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora [Cites],' a senior official at Taiwan's Council of Agriculture said yesterday. 'Imports must receive special approval from the relevant authorities.' The official's comments followed reports that President Hu Jintao planned to offer two pandas to Mr Lien, chairman of the Kuomintang party, during their meeting tomorrow. Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou said the municipal zoo would be willing to accept the animals if the reports turned out to be correct. Taipei Zoo would be equipped to accommodate the pandas after its workers had received a few months of intensive training, he said. However, zoo officials said they would require approval from Taipei's Council of Agriculture, as well as the Mainland Affairs Council, before being able to accept the pandas. Taiwan currently bans imports of animals from the mainland. A budget of about NT$50 million ($12.5 million) a year would be required to look after the pandas, Mr Ma said. The zoo had already received an offer of NT$200 million from a private donor to build an enclosure for the animals. Officials in Beijing said they had no information regarding the purported gift. 'At least for now, we haven't heard that anything like that is going to happen,' said an official at the Office of Taiwan Affairs, which is under the Beijing municipal government. Beijing Zoo, which is home to 11 giant pandas, also declined to comment on the reports. During the 1970s, loans of pandas to American and Japanese zoos constituted an important part of Chinese diplomacy.