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Japan-born panda twins to return to China
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Two male pandas born in Japan four years ago by leased parents from China will become the first overseas-born twin pandas ever to come back to China next week.


Ryuhin and Shuhin are due to leave Osaka, Japan at 3:30 AM (Beijing time) on October 27, stay in Beijing overnight and arrive at Chengdu, capital of southwest China's Sichuan Province, the following day, Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding announced on Wednesday.


Both Ryuhin, weighing 96.4 kilograms, and Shuhin, at 102.4 kilograms, were healthy, said Huang Xiangming, curator of the Animal Management Department with the base.


A group of Chinese experts and government officials will leave for Japan on Monday to oversee the transfer and ensure the travel conditions are appropriate.


A farewell ceremony will be held in Japan before their departure, and ten members of the public, selected from 300 candidates, will accompany them.


The pandas would be quarantined in a newly-built house at the base for two to three months, when they would adapt to the new environment before being shown to visitors, said Huang.


The pair were born on September 8, 2003, to Yong Ming and Mei Mei, which the research base leased to the Adventure World Park Zoo in western Japan's Wakayama prefecture in 1994 and 2000 respectively under a Sino-Japanese cooperation program on giant panda breeding.


They are the first pair of captive twin cubs raised by a mother panda instead of by humans, according to the research base.


Female pandas giving birth to twins tend to feed the stronger one and abandon the other, but Mei Mei nurtured both, said Huang.


Mei Mei has given birth to nine cubs in Japan and seven survived, making their family the largest abroad.


China sent 24 giant pandas to nine countries as gifts between 1957 to 1982 and five of their offspring are still alive.


The government stopped the program in 1985 and launched long-term cooperation on giant panda breeding with Japan, the United States and Spain in 1994, since when, 25 pandas have been leased to the countries.


According to cooperation agreement, cubs born overseas by pandas on loan belong to China and should be returned to China after they become sexually mature or the cooperation ends. The first overseas-born panda Hua Mei came to China from the United States in 2004.


Giant pandas are one of the most endangered species in the world. There are only 1,590 giant pandas living in the wild, most of them in southwest China's mountainous regions.


By the end of 2006, about 210 giant pandas lived in captivity in China.


(Xinhua News Agency October 18, 2007)

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