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China panda couple head for Australia

A giant panda couple will leave their southwest China home today for a 10-year stay in Australia, the first of the endangered species to live in the southern hemisphere.

Four-year-old Wang Wang and three-year-old Fu Ni were put in a cage at 9 am at China Giant Panda Protection and Research Center in Ya'an, Sichuan Province.

They will take a three-hour journey to the provincial capital Chengdu, where they will catch an afternoon flight to Australia.

Wang Wang, meaning "the web", and Fu Ni, meaning "happy girl", will stay at Adelaide Zoo.

The couple are expected to produce offspring in Australia, said Huang Yan, a giant panda specialist at the Ya'an center.

Huang said Fu Ni would enter full sexual maturity in 2012 while Wang Wang would also be in the reproductive period.

China and Australia agreed to conduct joint research on giant pandas in 2007. The research program focuses on the breeding, reproduction and behavioral study of the rare species.


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