Giant panda donated by China gives birth in Taiwan

TAIPEI (AFP) - A female giant panda donated by China to Taiwan four years ago gave birth to a cub on Saturday after being artificially inseminated, the Taipei city government said.

Yuan Yuan and her partner Tuan Tuan have become star attractions in Taipei Zoo in the island's capital since their arrival from China in late 2008 amid improving ties between the two sides.

But after years of hoping for a natural pregnancy, which are rare in captivity, the zoo carried out three artificial insemination sessions in March and announced in late June that Yuan Yuan showed signs of pregnancy.

"Taipei mayor Hao Lung-bin is very pleased to learn that Yuan Yuan successfully gave birth to a cub at 20:05 pm ...The Taipei city will take good care of Yuan Yuan, Tuan Tuan and the newborn," an official statement said.

The city government said it will share the happy news with a panda base in China's southwestern Sichuan province where the couple came from.

The island will be allowed to keep the cub as the panda couple is a gift, not a loan by China, Taipei officials have said.

Beijing usually only loans its pandas and any progeny must be sent to China.

China's decision to give Tuan Tuan and Yuan Yuan to Taiwan was a symbolic gesture to show warming ties between the former arch enemies, governed separately since the end of a civil war in 1949.

Fewer than 1,600 pandas remain in the wild, mainly in Sichuan province, with around 300 in captivity around the world.

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