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Taipei Zoo extends time for viewing pandas

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Visitors to the Taipei Zoo now have a longer time to see the pair of giant pandas from China, after officials modified the route at the panda compound. The viewing time has been extended about four minutes for each tour.

Long queues still formed in the morning to take numbered tickets for the close viewing of Tuan Tuan and Yuan Yuan.

A total of 18,889 tickets were taken by visitors yesterday, showing a slight increase of 842 from the 18,057 on the first day, when the pandas formally started being shown to Taiwanese visitors on New Year Day on Monday.

The figure remained below the daily ceiling quota of 22,000 people who will have the chance to see the two top drawers at the zoo. Administrators at the zoo said cold weather conditions with drizzles in the Muzha district was among the factors dampening the interest of visitors.

Another factor was that many people abided by the tradition of bringing their wives and children back to the female spouses' homes on the second day of the new lunar year yesterday.

They were confident the number of visitors wishing to meet with the pandas will pick up when the weather conditions improve.

After conducting opinion polls of the visitors, the zoo re-designed the route for panda viewing — allowing visitors to take a close look at the pandas for about two minutes on the first floor, plus another one-and-a-half minuets from the windows of the second floor of the compound.

A number of panda fans took advantage of the thinner number of visitors to take numbers for repeated viewings. Some said they and their families were able to go to the panda compound for four trips because they could get the tickets immediately.

Visitors do not have to pay extra to see the pandas after paying the admission fee at the zoo gate.

More savvy folk also brought binoculars for a closer look at the pandas, who have gotten accustomed to the weather and environment after settling down for more than one month, following their trip from the southwestern province of Sichuan in China.

Both pandas are in top conditions with good appetites.

Their climbing up and down and merry frolicking in their playground constantly drew laughter and screams from the crowds.

Concerning the visitors' complaints about the NT$250 “panda set menu” for lunch offered by the restaurants at the zoo, the managers added a new dish of spaghetti, priced at NT$120 for two days.

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 Taipei Zoo extends time for viewing pandas 
Taipei City Mayor Hau Lung-bin, second left, rides in one of the trains with two panda-shaped teddy bears. (Courtesy of EVA Air)

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