Ueno Zoo to get pandas in February

Kyodo News

A pair of giant pandas to be leased from China will arrive at Tokyo’s Ueno Zoo in February, sources said Saturday.

The giant pandas will be the zoo’s first since Ling-Ling, a male panda, died in April 2008, and follows a deal between the Tokyo Metropolitan Government and China to borrow the popular animals for 10 years.

One of the pandas is a male named Bili, and the other is a female called Xiannu. Both are 5 years old. The metro government will pay $950,000 (around ¥80 million) annually to China to lease the animals. Beijing will use the funds to preserve the species’ habitat and conduct research on pandas.

The endangered giant panda is considered a national treasure in China. The international conservation group WWF estimates there are around 1,600 pandas in the wild, with about 980 under protection in China’s panda reserves.