Japan-born panda cub happy back
Japan-born male panda Xiong Bang set foot on his ancestral land Monday, becoming the second giant panda born in a foreign land to return to China this year.
In February giant panda Hua Mei born at the San Diego Zoo in California of the United States returned to the prestigious Wolong Nature Reserve in Sichuan Province, Southwest China.
Xiong Bang, the 2-year-old cub born at the Adventure World Park Zoo in western Japan's Wakayama prefecture in December 2001, arrived by air in Beijing Monday and is expected to reach the Giant Panda Breeding and Research Centre in Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan Province Tuesday.
A solemn handover ceremony was held in Adventure World Park Zoo in western Japan's Wakayama prefecture on Sunday. A delegation led by Ma Jinchuan, deputy director of the Chengdu City Gardening Bureau, had arrived thereto escort Xiong Bang home.
The 88.6-kilogram lively Xiong Bang grew from infancy weighing merely 190 grams.
Now a sound and strapping bear, he will join China's giant panda breeding programme after his return home, according to the Chengdu-based breeding centre.
Some 23 pandas still reside overseas, according to the the State Forestry Administration.
From 1957 to 1982, China presented a total of 24 giant pandas as gifts to nine nations. In 1985, however, it decided no other pandas would go as gifts. Instead, the endangered animals could go abroad only by means of leasing. Cubs born on foreign soil would belong to China and would have to be returned.
Currently, Japan's Adventure World Park is home to six pandas with the largest panda population living outside China. The Chengdu centre has also established a foreign branch in the park.
Xiong Bang was one of the twins born by the 9-year-old Mei Mei, which came to the world in 1994, has been on loan to the Japanese zoo since 2000 as part of a panda reproduction programme. Unfortunately, his twin was stillborn.
Before the birth of Xiong Bang, Mei Mei gave birth to a female cub, called Liang Bang, at the Adventure World Park on September 6, 2000. The mother bear had been artificially inseminated in China.
Xiong Bang's father Yong Ming was loaned to the park in 1994.
Xiong Bang was the first offspring born by the pandas in winter. Pandas usually go into heat during spring and delivers cubs in the summer or fall, according to Yu Jianqiu, deputy head with the giant panda breeding and research centre in Chengdu.