Xiang Xiang, a giant panda cub that has been drawing huge crowds at a Tokyo’s Ueno zoo, will return to China by the end of 2020, Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike said Friday.
The female panda was originally scheduled to be returned when she turns 2 next month but the loan period has been extended.
China has ownership of Xiang Xiang as well as her parents, who came to Japan in 2011 under a 10-year lease agreement.
“Thanks to the understanding of the Chinese side, people can continue seeing her,” Koike told a news conference. “I can imagine some people would miss her but (the return of Xiang Xiang) will be necessary in preserving and breeding of pandas.”
Xiang Xiang was born on June 12, 2017, to mother Shin Shin and father Ri Ri through natural mating at the Ueno Zoological Gardens. Her name was chosen from more than 320,000 suggestions received from the public.
She became the first panda cub to be exhibited at Ueno zoo in 29 years.
Since a panda cub is very difficult to look after due to its inability to control its body temperature right after birth, zoo staff monitored and took care of her around the clock for about three months.
Japan has agreed to pay $950,000 to China annually for the lease of Xiang Xiang.