Tuan Tuan and Yuan Yuan
Tuan Tuan and Yuan Yuan are two giant pandas that were sent by mainland China to Taiwan in 2008 as part of an exchange program. The exchange idea was first proposed in 2005, but the previous administration in Taiwan had refused to accept the pandas. After elections that resulted in a change of presidents in 2008, Taipei accepted the pandas, and they arrived in Taiwan on December 23, 2008. The two names were selected by a vote in the PRC and their combination, Tuan Yuan, means "reunion" in Chinese. The pandas are being housed at Taipei Zoo and have been exhibited to the public since the 2009 Chinese New Year.
Tuan Tuan, male, was born to Hua Mei on September 1, 2004 and was assigned as no. 19 in the Wolong National Nature Reserve in Sichuan Province. Yuan Yuan, female, was born on August 31, 2004 and was assigned as no. 16 in the Wolong National Nature Reserve. Their names, "Tuan Tuan" and "Yuan Yuan", were chosen in an unofficial public poll in mainland China the results of which were revealed live on national television during the 2006 CCTV New Year's Gala. Approximately 130 million mainland Chinese viewers cast their votes. Together, the names produce the Chinese phrase tuan yuan (simplified Chinese: 团圆; traditional Chinese: 團圓; pinyin: tuán yuán), meaning "reunion".
Proposal and political resistance
The exchange of the pandas was first proposed during the 2005 Pan-Blue visits to mainland China, when politicians from the then-Opposition Pan-Blue coalition, which is comparatively pro-unification in stance, visited mainland China. Chen Yunlin, then the head of the State Council Taiwan Affairs Office, announced on May 3, 2005, that Beijing would present two giant pandas to Taipei as part of an exchange program.
The two pandas to be sent to Taiwan were chosen after 218 days of observation and discussion by experts from both mainland China and Taiwan, and were officially announced on January 6, 2006. The Chinese Wildlife Protection Society then began seeking nominations for the names to be given to the pair of pandas. These were announced on the eve of Chinese New Year, 2006 on the CCTV New Year's Gala live on national television. An opinion survey in Taiwan conducted by United Daily News in response to the exchange proposal found 50% of respondents in favour of accepting the pandas, and 34% opposed.
However, the exchange proposal soon met political resistance in Taiwan. On March 31, 2006, the Agricultural Committee of the Executive Yuan in Taiwan decided not to issue permits for the importation, ostensibly on the grounds that the zoos in Taiwan applying for the importation did not meet facility and resource requirements for the proper care and rearing of the pandas, and that importation would not be in the best interest of protecting pandas. However, commentators generally observed that political considerations underlay the technical decision, with the independence-leaning President Chen Shui-bian being opposed to what he saw as a propaganda move by Beijing.
In 2008, Ma Ying-jeou, of the Kuomintang, was elected President, and over the next few months has forged stronger economic and political relations with mainland China under his presidency, and was willing to accept them. The offering of pandas a gift from mainland China is often known as "panda diplomacy", and Taipei Zoo expects to draw around 30,000 visitors a day as a result of their arrival. The move was criticized by supporters of Taiwan's independence and the opposition Democratic Progressive Party, who said that "Tuan Tuan and Yuan Yuan means a union, which perfectly matches Beijing's goal of bringing Taiwan into its fold."
Although Taiwan is not a CITES signatory and is therefore not obligated to report to the CITES Secretariat, the Secretariat of CITES said in response to the transfer that it viewed the transfer as an intrastate matter, and thus would be governed by whatever procedures and documentary requirements that are agreed upon by the Beijing and Taipei authorities. Both sides adopted procedures similar to standard CITES procedures for international transfers. On the import-export permits, the origin was listed as the Wolong Nature Reserve Management Office, while the destination was listed as the Taipei City Zoo.
Arrival in Taiwan and reaction
Tuan Tuan and Yuan Yuan arrived in Taiwan aboard an EVA Air flight on December 23, 2008, and were transported to Taipei Zoo. The arrival of the pandas was met with intense public attention, described by the press as "Pandamania", with the pandas becoming instant celebrities. A variety of merchandise has already appeared, with even buses redecorated in panda-themed livery.
At the same time, there has also been political controversy. The opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) continues to see the pandas as a propaganda move by Beijing. They have appealed to their supporters not to visit the pandas.
Yuan Yuan gave birth to a cub on July 6, 2013 at the Taipei Zoo. The female cub was nicknamed Yuan Zai (also pronounced in Taiwanese Hokkien as Yi Ya). Yuan Zai has several meanings: rice ball, and also '(Yuan)Yuan's child'. On October 26, at the zoo's 99th anniversary ceremony, the baby panda was officially named Yuan Zai after a naming activity that saw 60% of the votes go to the cub's nickname. She was also presented an honorary citizen's card on that day. As Tuan Tuan and Yuan Yuan were sent to Taiwan in exchange for two Formosan sika deer and two Taiwan serows, the baby cub does not need to be returned.
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