NIIGATA – A young female crested ibis donated by China arrived in Japan on Saturday to hopefully mate with a male ibis.
The arrival of the rare bird comes under an environmental accord adopted in Tokyo on Friday between Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori and Chinese Premier Zhu Rongji.
Eighteen-month-old Mei Mei was transported to the Sado Crested Ibis Conservation Center on Sado Island, Niigata Prefecture, to mate with Yu Yu, a 17-month-old male.
Japanese and Chinese officials are taking steps to preserve the endangered species. They voiced hope that, with the pair having reached puberty and the mating season expected in six months, chicks will be born in the spring.
Under the accord, which calls for the two countries to share any offspring, the first chick would be sent to China and the second would stay in Japan.
A delegation from China’s State Forestry Bureau brought Mei Mei to Japan from Xi’an, the capital of Shaanxi Province, on Saturday morning. They arrived at Niigata airport, via Shanghai, shortly before 3 p.m.
Mei Mei arrived at the Sado center after Japanese and Chinese officials signed a transfer document.
“Experts have selected the healthiest and prettiest bird from more than a dozen females,” said an official with the delegation. “We hope they will successfully mate.”
Weighing 1,330 grams, Mei Mei was born on April 10 last year at a crested ibis preservation center in the province, the official said.
Yu Yu was born in May last year to Yang Yang and You You, who were gifts from Chinese President Jiang Zemin to the Emperor on the occasion of the president’s visit to Japan in 1998.
Although the scientific name for crested ibises is Nipponia Nippon, which contains the Japanese word for Japan, the birds no longer exist in the wild here. Only one ibis born in Japan, a female named Kin who is believed to be about 33 years old, lives at the Sado center.
Mori and Zhu agreed Friday to draw up a joint program to protect the ibises, Foreign Ministry officials said.
The center is also raising Shin Shin and Ai Ai, other offspring of Yang Yang and You You.
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