Japan Balks at $1M Panda Price Tag

Tokyo may reject Chinese offer
By Jason Farago,  Newser Staff
Posted May 9, 2008 9:40 AM CDT
Ling Ling sits in the Chapultepec Zoo in Mexico City. Japan's oldest giant panda, a longtime star at a Tokyo zoo and a symbol of friendship with China, has died of illness, zoo keepers said Wednesday....   (AP Photo/Eduardo Verdugo, File)
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(Newser) – Hu Jintao is making the first visit to Japan by a Chinese president in 10 years, and he's looking to solidify the newly amicable relationship with an offering of two giant pandas. But the rare animals aren't a gift, exactly: they're a loan, and they come at a yearly cost of $1 million apiece. The high price has forced the panda-loving Japanese to rethink the offer, writes the Wall Street Journal.

Last week saw an outpouring of grief following the death of Ling Ling, the 22-year-old panda at Tokyo's Ueno Zoo. But China's offer has struck a sour note; one Japanese newspaper blasted the system of "panda rental." The terms aren't unusual: in 2000, Washington National Zoo signed a $10 million deal to host two pandas for 10 years, returning all offspring to China once they reach the age of 2.