Sayonara, Ling Ling

Japan’s giant panda, Ling Ling, has died of natural causes:

TOKYO – Japan’s prime minister said Thursday he has asked to borrow some giant pandas from China after Ling Ling, one of the best-loved animals at Tokyo’s Ueno Zoo, died of old age this week.

Ling Ling, the only giant panda owned by Japan, died Wednesday at the age of 22 — the equivalent of 70 in human years.

His death came just days ahead of a landmark visit to Tokyo by Chinese President Hu Jintao during which zoo officials are hoping for an agreement that will bring another panda to Japan.

China has a long tradition of offering giant pandas as gifts to foreign governments to improve ties, but now only leases the animals abroad as they are an endangered species.

I’ve only seen a panda once, at the San Diego Zoo. I wanted to visit Ling Ling that one day I had in Tokyo a few years back but just never got around to it.

genma saotome in panda mode