China offers white tiger pair to Taiwan city
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Sun Jul 13, 2008 11:47pm EDT
TAIPEI, July 14 (Reuters) – A province of south China has offered a goodwill gift of two white tigers to a Taiwan city where many distrust Beijing, another sign of detente between two arch-rivals, the Taiwan side said on Monday.
Guangdong province offered the tigers to Taiwan’s southern port city Kaohsiung when a group led by the city council speaker visited local officials in China, but Kaohsiung has not decided whether to accept them, city officials said.
China has claimed sovereignty over self-ruled Taiwan since 1949, when Mao Zedong’s Communists won the Chinese civil war and Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalists (KMT) fled to the island. Beijing has vowed to bring Taiwan under its rule, by force if necessary.
Ssince China-friendly Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou took office in May, economic and trade ties have quickly warmed, and Beijing has offered to donate a pair of China-symbolic giant pandas, sparking competition to home them among Taiwan zoos.
Kaohsiung’s Shoushan Zoo is renovating its tiger enclosure for an eager city of 1.6 million, a city official said.
“We welcome these animals to please the public, and the mayor wants the renovation as a way to stimulate consumer demand,” said Lai Jui-lung, secretary with the city Economic Affairs Bureau.
But Kaohsiung must do an appraisal before deciding whether to take the animals, a city news office representative said.
White tigers get their colour, including blue eyes and chocolate stripes, through an unusual genetic condition and are sometimes bred intentionally as exotic zoo animals despite the risk of birth defects.
White tigers rarely occur in their native wild habitat of India and Southeast Asia.