Japanese panda fans will be able to see the endangered animals in Tokyo next year for the first time since 2008, after the city reached an agreement to pay nearly $1 million a year to borrow a pair from China, officials said Friday.
Tokyo’s Ueno Zoo has been without a giant panda for the first time since 1972, when a pair arrived to mark the signing of a peace treaty between Japan and China. Ling Ling, a panda who came to Tokyo in 1992, died in April 2008 at the age of 22, which in human terms is equivalent to about 70.
Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara told reporters Friday that two pandas are expected to arrive in Tokyo early next year and would cost $950,000 a year.
“It’s quite a costly deal,” Ishihara said, adding that Tokyo officials bargained to get $50,000 off the original $1 million price tag. The payments will help rebuild a panda sanctuary in China’s Sichuan province and fund joint breeding projects between Japan and China, he said.
The sanctuary was nearly destroyed by a devastating earthquake in Sichuan in May 2008.
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