pandas on the move! having survived the earthquake in wolong, they have now arrived at their new home in taiwan. the telegraph's richard spencer reports:
"TuanTuan and YuanYuan, whose names when put together mean "Reunion", landed at Taoyuan Airport near the island's capital Taipei. It was the end of a long day, which began with tearful celebrations in Sichuan, their home and home of most of the world's surviving giant pandas. They were given a last breakfast of corn buns and carrots in the city of Ya'an, where they were taken after surviving the May earthquake which destroyed their birth-place, the world-famous Wolong breeding centre. As they were loaded on to a truck for the road trip to Chengdu airport, they were seen off by a party of dancing schoolchildren dressed in panda suits.
They were guarded by 500 security officers and armed police strung out along the route, along with 20 animal experts and their own two keepers. There were more dances at the airport, from the local Qiang minority group who occupy the mountains that are their natural habitat, followed by speeches. "TuanTuan and YuanYuan will sow the seeds of peace, solidarity and friendship on Taiwan's soil," Zheng Lizhong, deputy director of China's Taiwan Affairs Office said.
The pair were offered three years ago as a goodwill gesture by China, after its anti-secession law which set in stone the national policy of using force to prevent any Taiwan declaration of independence raised tensions across the Straits. They were initially rejected by the then Taiwan president, Chen Shui-bian, who favours moving towards independence. But that decision was reversed by his successor, Ma Ying-jeou, who won election in March on a platform of improving ties with the mainland, which claims historic sovereignty over the island.
Upon arrival at the end of their three-hour journey to Taipei - made easier by the resumption this year of direct flights - they were taken away by keepers for a month-long period of quarantine, before they go on show at a specially constructed 6.5 million pound enclosure at Taipei Zoo.
Their journey was welcomed by the city government. "TuanTuan and YuanYuan are finally setting off for the historic trip to Taiwan," said Yang Hsiao-tung, a spokesman. "This symbolises another major step forward in pragmatic cross-strait exchanges." But Mr Ma’s acceptance of the pandas was attacked in pro-independence newspapers as showing he accepted Taiwan’s “vassal status” to China."