Selection of the giant pandas to be sent to Taiwan kicked off yesterday at the Wolong Nature Reserve in Southwest China's Sichuan Province.
Zhao Xuemin, vice-minister of the State Forestry Bureau, announced the nine-member selection panel at a ceremony at the country's largest panda centre.
The panel is led by Zhang Hemin, chief of the Administrative Bureau of the Wolong Nature Reserve, and includes eight other panda officials and experts from around the country.
The Chinese mainland announced plans to send giant pandas to Taiwan following the mainland visit of the island's opposition Kuomintang Party Chairman Lien Chan in May.
The Taiwan compatriots are eager to see the pandas arrive, Zhao said.
An opinion poll in Taiwan showed that more than 70 per cent of people on the island welcomed the decision, said Dai Xiaofeng, a senior official from the State Council Taiwan Affairs Office.
Dai said he hoped the Taiwan authorities would take the Taiwan compatriots' desire into consideration and accept the mainland's offer of the animals.
Zhang Hemin, chief of the expert panel, said the panel should consist of members from both the party sending the pandas and the party receiving them. Because the Taiwan authorities have so far made no response to the offer, the mainland has set up the panel on its own.
He was happy that the panel consisted of experts from different fields. "Because pandas have diverse personality traits like human beings, I am afraid I alone cannot choose the pandas meeting the requirements of being healthy, lively and lovely," he said.
Many members of the panel agreed that the pandas should be healthy first in terms of psychology and behaviour. "Pandas in captivity, which have long been confined to a limited space, might have abnormal behaviour," said Wang Pengyan, a senior panda expert from the China Conservation and Research Centre for the Giant Panda.
Zhang Hemin shared his view, saying: "Some ruttish male pandas would beat female pandas if the latter refused sex. Pandas with such behaviour should not be chosen."
Zhang also told a story of a new mother who gave birth to a cub the day before yesterday. "When the cub cried, the mother was scared away. We will choose a panda which has the potential to be a good mother," he said.
He revealed that the panel would finish formulating the standards for selecting pandas within the month on the basis of looks, health, and genetics.
"To qualify for selection, each pair will have to meet the requirements set out," he said.
Set up in 1963, the Wolong Nature Reserve, covering 2,000 square kilometres, is China's first and largest reserve devoted to panda conservation. In the past 14 years, it has found solutions to the three major obstacles to successful captive breeding difficulties in rutting, becoming pregnant and bringing up the cubs.
As a result, pandas bred at the centre account for 70 per cent of pandas raised in captivity in the mainland, Zhao said.
Source: China Daily