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Just how cute are giant pandas? The public can’t get enough of them. The star attractions at Ueno Zoo in Tokyo are Ri Ri and Shin Shin, a male and female pair who helped attract some 4.4 million visitors last fiscal year — the highest number for 19 years.

Ueno Zoo certainly needs the money they generate. To host a pair of pandas, foreign zoos must pay the Chinese government at least $500,000 per year for 10 years. Rich countries such as Japan pay more like $1 million. However, the animals remain the “property” of China, which means that if something goes wrong — a panda dies unexpectedly, for example — the foreign zoo has a lot of explaining to do to the Chinese.

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