Two giant pandas from China have arrived in Taiwan. The endangered animals are a goodwill gift from Beijing and a symbol of improving relations between the two historic foes.
Eva Airways, a Taiwan airline, transported the two pandas Tuesday afternoon from Chengdu in China's southwestern Sichuan Province.
Pandas will remain in quarantine until late January
Only caretakers, conservationists and veterinarians accompanied the shy animals on the special Boeing 747 flight.
They were immediately taken to the Taipei Zoo, where they will be held in quarantine until late January.
Andrew Yang is an analyst with the Taipei Council of Advanced Political Studies. He says Taiwanese people appreciate the gift and that the pandas will create some goodwill, especially among children.
"It's a good gesture, it's creating a better atmosphere," he explained, "showing China as having sincerity and Taiwan is accommodating the process. And hopefully that will make a better life for both sides."
Beijing aiming to get Taiwan back under its political control
China has viewed self-ruled Taiwan as part of its territory since the island broke away from Beijing at the end of a civil war in 1949. Beijing makes clear that it wishes to bring Taiwan back under its political control and has threatened to take the island by force if its leaders move to declare formal independence.
Relations between the two sides have improved over the past several months. Beijing and Taipei have signed numerous economic and trade agreements since Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou took office in May.
Yang, however, says he does not think the arrival of the pandas will build necessarily public support for Mr. Ma.
"I think people are still very much concerned again, [about] whether his [Ma's] policy will be actually making some benefits for the Taiwanese economy. The economy is much more important than pandas," Yang said.
Pandas names mean reunion
The pandas are named "Tuan Tuan" and "Yuan Yuan", which mean "reunion" when spoken together in Mandarin. China promised to send them three years ago, but the offer was held up by the previous Taiwan president, who opposed closer relations with Beijing.
About 1500 pandas live in the bamboo forests of central and western China. They are picky eaters, so 480 kilograms of their favorite Sichuan bamboo were brought along on the flight. Taipei Zoo keepers plan to gradually mix in more local bamboo as the pandas adjust to their new environment.
In exchange for the pandas, Taiwan will donate rare native deer and goats to China.