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Ueno Zoo's only panda dies at 22

Ling Ling, the only giant panda at Ueno Zoo in Tokyo, died of chronic heart failure at about 2 a.m. Wednesday, zoo officials said.

The death of Ling Ling, 22, means Ueno Zoo has no panda for the first time since 1972, when Kang Kang and Lan Lan were given to the zoo by China. Pandas became a symbol of Ueno Zoo, which became the first zoo in Japan to breed one.

Ling Ling was the oldest panda in Japan, with an age equivalent to 70 years for a human. He had been showing signs of failing health since April with increasingly slow movements and a loss of appetite. The zoo removed him from public display Tuesday.

Ling Ling was born at Beijing Zoo in September 1985 and came to Japan in November 1992. He and female panda Tong Tong became mates, but they were unable to breed successfully. Tong Tong died in 2000, leaving Ling Ling alone at the zoo. Since 2001, the zoo has tried to use artificial insemination techniques to produce a cub, sending Ling Ling to a zoo in Mexico at one point. But the zoo gave up its efforts last year after the panda showed a decline in health.

There are now eight pandas in Japan-- two at Kobe Municipal Oji Zoo and six at Adventure World in Shirahamacho, Wakayama Prefecture.

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Govt to ask China to loan pandas

During Chinese President Hu Jintao's five-day visit, which begins Tuesday, the Japanese government hopes to reach an agreement with China to have a pair of pandas loaned to Ueno Zoo, it has been learned.

At the foreign ministerial meeting held with China on April 17 in Tokyo, Foreign Minister Masahiko Komura requested his counterpart, Yang Jiechi, arrange the loan of a panda couple to Japan as a symbol of the friendship between the two countries.

(May. 1, 2008)
AP News
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