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Chinese panda in Japan dies of asphyxiation

By Bao Daozu (China Daily)
Updated: 2010-10-04 10:39
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The endangered animals served as diplomats for many centuries

BEIJING - A giant panda at a zoo in Kobe, Japan, died of asphyxiation, the State Forestry Administration said on Saturday.

The 14-year-old male panda, named Xing Xing (also known as Kou Kou), died on Sept 9 at the Oji Zoo when Japanese veterinarians drugged him to collect sperm for artificial insemination.

After Xing Xing's death, the Chinese government immediately sent a panel of experts to Japan for an investigation and found that after receiving anaesthetic, Xing Xing suffocated when "objects in its stomach went into its lungs, leading to asphyxiation", according to Xinhua News Agency.

Earlier reports suggested experts believed the death might have been caused by an overdose of sedatives and were questioning why Japanese veterinarians were extracting semen outside the animal's mating period.

Settlement of the panda's death is under way in accordance with the Sino-Japanese panda breeding agreement signed in 1999. According to the agreement, Japan will pay $500,000 in compensation to China if a panda dies due to human error.

Xing Xing was loaned to Japan in 2002 from the Wolong China Giant Panda Protection and Research Center to replace a male panda for a 10-year breeding agreement between the China Wildlife Conservation Association and Kobe's Oji Zoo.

The endangered animals have served as diplomats in Sino-Japanese ties for centuries. The earliest record of China giving pandas to Japan as gifts was in AD 685, when a Tang Dynasty empress offered a pair to the Japanese emperor.

According to a recently signed agreement between China and Japan, two giant pandas will leave their home in Southwest China's Sichuan province early next year for a 10-year stay in Tokyo's Ueno Zoo.

There are some 1,600 giant pandas living in the wild, and about 300 in captivity. Five pandas in captivity have died around the world so far this year.

Xinhua and AFP contributed to this story.

China Daily