Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Pandas Return to Tokyo’s Ueno Zoo


Bili and Xiannu, two 5-year-old pandas, arrived at Tokyo’s Ueno Zoo late Monday February 21st. They’ll be the zoo’s first since the 2008 death of its beloved giant panda Ling Ling.

Ueno Zoo manager Teruyuki Komiya is already hoping for a newborn by summer. The pair are primed to reproduce, and Xiannu may get pregnant as early as March, a hopeful Komiya said. If that happens, a cub will be born as early as June, he said.

The Ueno area has been gearing up for the pandas’ arrival for weeks, with banners carrying panda cartoons and shops selling novelty goods. Japanese media crews were camped at the zoo. The metropolitan government will pay $950,000 (around 90 million yen) each year to China in lease charges that go to fund wild animal protection.

The endangered giant panda is considered a national treasure in China and the international conservation group WWF estimates that there are around 1,600 pandas in the wild, with about 980 under protection in China’s panda reserves.

The Ueno Zoo is a zoo, managed by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, and located in Taitō, Tokyo, Japan. It is Japan’s oldest and most famous zoo, opened on March 20, 1882. It is a five-minute walk from the Park Exit of Ueno Station, with convenient access from Tokyo’s public-transportation network. The Ueno Zoo Monorail, the first monorail in the country, connects the eastern and western parts of the grounds.
The zoo is located within Ueno Park, a large urban park that is home to several museums, a small amusement park, and other attractions.

It has grown over the years, expanded its area to 35.2 acres and been the flagship of the Japanese zoo world. Now it’s home to over 2600 animals from 464 different species. In its long history, Ueno Zoo has received numerous animals from abroad. In 1972, the first giant pandas arrived from China. Ueno Zoo has been cooperating with Beijing Zoo (China), San Diego Zoo (US) and Chapultepec Zoo (Mexico) for conservation and breeding of wild giant pandas. Ling Ling the last giant panda at the zoo died on April 30, 2008.