SHANGHAI (Kyodo) A pair of giant pandas from China landed in Japan on Monday as the public eagerly awaited its furry replacements for Ling Ling, who died in April 2008.

The two 5-year-olds, a male named Bili and a female named Xiannu, were flown from Chengdu airport in Sichuan Province and transferred to an All Nippon Airways jet at Shanghai’s Pudong International Airport for the trip to Narita International Airport in Chiba Prefecture. After arriving at Narita at 8:50 p.m., they were scheduled to be delivered to Ueno Zoo in Tokyo at around midnight.

The pandas are expected to be put on public display next month and given new Japanese names, as sought by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government. Expectations are high for the two, who are 20 years old in human terms, to breed, according to an expert in China.

The pandas, used by China as envoys for bilateral friendship, have fueled hopes they will help improve Japanese sentiment toward China after bilateral ties soured last year over a maritime and territorial row.

Under a bilateral agreement, the pandas will be leased to the metropolitan government for 10 years at a charge of $950,000 (around ¥79 million) a year, with the money going toward animal preservation.

According to the pandas’ keeper in China, sporty Bili is a big eater and and enjoys tree climbing, while Xiannu is active and has an affable nature.

China donated Japan’s first pair of giant pandas, Lan Lan and Kang Kang, when the two countries normalized ties in 1972. Male giant panda Ling Ling came to the zoo in 1992 from China in exchange for a Japan-born panda to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the normalization of bilateral ties.

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