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Tokyo is set to extend the lease on a giant panda couple on loan from China, while their popular female offspring Xiang Xiang will depart the Japanese capital as planned by the end of the year, Gov. Yuriko Koike said Friday.

Koike said Tokyo is in the final stages of negotiations with the Chinese side to extend the loan period of male panda Ri Ri and female Shin Shin, both 15, at the Ueno Zoological Gardens.

China has ownership of Xiang Xiang, born at the zoo in June 2017. The cub’s parents came to Japan in February 2011 under a 10-year lease agreement.

“Pandas are very lovable. We will continue negotiations by embracing the desire of Tokyoites,” Koike told a news conference.

Koike, however, said the capital will make preparations for Xiang Xiang to leave for China for breeding purposes, and asked people for their understanding. The cub has been drawing huge crowds at the zoo since she was first shown to the public in December 2017.

Xiang Xiang was originally scheduled to leave Japan when she turned 2, but the loan period was extended in May last year.

Last month, the zoo opened a new giant panda enclosure for Ri Ri and Shin Shin that mimics the mammals’ natural habitat in Sichuan province in southwestern China.

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