Three giant pandas return to China from Japan under agreement
Three giant pandas born and raised in Japan have returned to China under a standard agreement to improve the breeding success of the rare animals.
The six-year-old twins and their four-year-old sister had been living at Wakayama Adventure World in southern Japan.
The three arrived on Monday night in the city of Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan province that is home to most wild pandas, as well as sanctuaries and breeding centres.
The official Xinhua News Agency said the three were travelling on Tuesday to the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding where they will be quarantined for a month while they acclimatise to their new home before going on show to the public.
"They are expected to adapt to changes in food, environment, language, and even the taste of bamboo. We will perform health checks on the pandas," Yang Zhi, a disease prevention expert with the centre, was quoted as saying by Xinhua.
Wakayama Adventure World and the Chengdu base have been co-operating on panda breeding research since 1994. The programme has led to the births of 15 pandas, eight of whom have now returned to China, according to Xinhua.
Around 420 pandas live in captivity, the majority within China, while an estimated 1,864 live in the wild.
China for decades gifted friendly nations with its unofficial national mascot in what was known as "panda diplomacy". More recently, the country has loaned pandas to zoos on commercial terms.
Most loans last from 10 to 15 years, with fees of as much as 1 million US dollars per year.