Tears and images as Japan sends its “home” giant panda to China

TOKYO (Reuters) – With tears, waves and farewell cries from fans, a giant panda born in Japan was whisked away to China on Tuesday from the Tokyo Zoo where it was raised.

Xiang Xiang, who has been very popular at Tokyo’s Ueno Zoo since she was born there nearly six years ago, was sent to China under an agreement whereby giant pandas are loaned to zoos around the world, but China retains ownership of any of these loaned bears. and their descendants.

Xiang Xiang was originally supposed to be reinstated in December 2020, but this was delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Xiang Xiang, the zoo’s first natural panda, was the first to be born there in years, adding to her popularity. Another baby panda died shortly after being born in 2012. Her parents are still at the zoo, as are younger twin siblings born in 2021.

About 60,000 people applied for 2,600 spots to see her on Sunday, her last day, with some women in tears as they watched her snack on bamboo.

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The media recorded her journey as she was loaded onto a truck by a panda-badged forklift early Tuesday morning, and zoo employees lined the road as she left. Public broadcaster NHK broadcast footage of Xiangxiang being caged at the airport moments before he was loaded onto the flight.

A crowd gathered at Narita Airport in Tokyo, taking pictures, waving and shouting as the plane she was traveling took off.

“Thank you Xiang Xiang,” wrote a fan on the zoo’s Twitter page. “Your charm and charisma have brought our city to life.”

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Reporting by Eileen Lies. Edited by Lincoln Feast.

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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