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Hokkaido may give a pair of red-crowned cranes, a species designated as a special national treasure, to Taiwan, following Taipei’s plan to open a representative office in the prefecture, sources said Wednesday.

The proposed donation is intended to promote good will between Taiwan and Hokkaido, which has become a popular travel destination for Taiwanese tourists.

In fiscal 2007, about 280,000 Taiwanese visited Hokkaido for sightseeing, a fivefold jump from 10 years earlier.

Taiwan’s East Asian Relations Association, a semiofficial agency charged with overseeing relations with Japan in the absence of diplomatic ties, plans to open a de facto consulate in Hokkaido, possibly before the summer.

Acting on an informal request from Taiwan, Hokkaido has begun preparing to donate a pair of red-crowned cranes to the island, contacting a zoo with expertise in handling and feeding techniques, the sources said. But it has yet to begin talks with the Taiwanese.

The crane is known as a symbol of longevity and conjugal love in East Asia. It is listed as an endangered species by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, popularly called the Washington Treaty, basically limiting the bird’s export to breeding and scientific study.

The estimated population of red-crowned cranes in the wild is more than 1,000 in Hokkaido, according to the prefecture. Given the expected stress in the new environment, the cranes to be donated to Taiwan must have been raised in captivity, a Hokkaido official said.

The official indicated the need for rigorous control after the pair is shipped to Taiwan so they do not get paired with cranes originating in China, which are a different species.

Japan has never exported a red-crowned crane originating in Hokkaido.

The prefecture is considering attaching a clause banning the recipient zoo in Taiwan from pairing the Hokkaido birds with different species, the sources said.

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