Beijing's offer of a pair of pandas as a gift to the Taiwanese people has been received enthusiastically by the island's zoos - in stark contrast to the guarded response from the authorities. At least three zoos have expressed an interest in housing the mainland guests, a day after the announcement was made to mark the end of the historic mainland visit by Kuomintang leader Lien Chan on Tuesday. They include the Leo Foo Zoo in Hsinchu, the Shoushan Zoo in Kaohsiung and the Taipei Zoo. 'I believe many people here want to have the pandas. After all, the panda is one of the world's treasures. If Taiwan has pandas, a large number of people will want to go visit them in the zoo,' said Leo Foo Zoo spokesman Lin Pei-yi. Ms Lin said Leo Foo Zoo would be more than happy to raise the pandas if the Taipei Zoo had difficulties completing its panda house. Shoushan Zoo also expressed an interest in taking the pandas, saying it had room to build a spacious temperature-controlled panda house and had first-rate medical facilities to care for the animals. 'It may be a little tight for our manpower, but we will still be able to arrange for our specialists to take care of the pandas,' said Chang Po-yu, a section chief at the zoo. Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou said on Tuesday that the Taipei Zoo would be happy to host the pandas, although sceptics - including some ruling Democratic Progressive Party city councillors - cast doubts on the zoo's ability to do so, citing concerns about its financial resources. Responding to the challenge, Taipei Zoo's Chao Ming-chieh said: 'We absolutely have the ability to raise the pandas'. He said the zoo had started building a panda house, which was expected to be completed by the end of this year and ready to open next March or April. 'As for panda food, the zoo has prepared several kinds of bamboo, with apples, carrots, sugarcane and porridge as side dishes for the pandas,' he said. He said the Taipei Zoo's chief concern was the prospect of breeding pandas in Taiwan - a difficult task because the chance of a baby panda surviving six months was only 40 per cent. However, he stressed that the zoo would send specialists to the mainland to learn how to care for pandas. Mr Chao revealed an ambitious plan to send a team of three specialists and one management official to first visit Japan or the US, where pandas have been raised, for a two-month training programme, before going to a mainland zoo for another two months of training. The Taipei Zoo is reportedly the preferred recipient for the pair of pandas to be given by the mainland. Yesterday, Mainland Affairs Council chairman Joseph Wu Jau-shieh said the government would accept the pandas as long as the gift did not violate any international regulations or result in the downgrading of the island's status. But Mr Ma said there was no need to worry that the pandas were a political propaganda gimmick by the mainland. 'The pandas are not Chinese communists and they cannot possibly become Chinese Communist Party members,' he said. Mr Ma said the city government would form a task force to press its bid to host the pandas.