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Ueno Zoo in Tokyo is expected to receive a pair of giant pandas from China early next year, Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara said Friday, unveiling a plan that would mark the return of the popular animals to the country’s oldest zoo three years after the death of its last panda.

Ishihara said the Chinese side has agreed in principle to lease two pandas for $950,000 a year, money that Tokyo expects to be used for the preservation of wild animals in China. The zoo has been without a panda since the death in April 2008 of Ling Ling, its only giant panda at the time.

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