Pandemic pushes back return of popular Tokyo panda to China

Dec 11 , 2020. 14 hours ago – 19:45 KYODO NEWS

Giant panda cub Xiang Xiang is pictured at Ueno Zoological Gardens in Tokyo on Dec. 7, 2020. (Photo courtesy of Tokyo Zoological Park Society)(For editorial use only)(Kyodo)

TOKYO – The Tokyo metropolitan government has agreed with Chinese authorities to push back through next May the return of Xiang Xiang, the popular female offspring of a giant panda couple on loan from China, amid the coronavirus pandemic, Gov. Yuriko Koike said Thursday.

Xiang Xiang, born in June 2017 at the Ueno Zoological Gardens, was originally scheduled to leave Japan when she turned 2. But in May last year, the two sides agreed to extend the loan period through the end of this year due to her popularity in Japan.

This time, they also agreed to push back the return deadline for her parents, father Ri Ri and mother Shin Shin, for about five years beyond next February. The two pandas came to Japan in February 2011.

Xiang Xiang had been expected to live at a facility in Sichuan Province, southwestern China. But the suspension of direct flights between Tokyo and Sichuan due to the pandemic affected the plan, officials said.

Xiang Xiang has grown from 147 grams at birth to 76.4 kilograms, according to the zoo.

She now acts more like an adult panda, resting for more than half the day, and has gotten better at climbing trees, it said.

Cr. KYODO NEWS