PICTURES

Japan zoo gives pandas privacy as mating season starts

Ri Ri, a male giant panda, walks in his enclosure at Ueno zoo in Tokyo on March 4, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP
Ri Ri, a male giant panda, walks in his enclosure at Ueno zoo in Tokyo on March 4, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP
Visitors watch Ri Ri, a male giant panda, walking in his enclosure at Ueno zoo in Tokyo on March 4, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP
Visitors watch Ri Ri, a male giant panda, walking in his enclosure at Ueno zoo in Tokyo on March 4, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP
Shin Shin, a female giant panda, walks in her enclosure at Ueno zoo in Tokyo on March 4, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP
Shin Shin, a female giant panda, walks in her enclosure at Ueno zoo in Tokyo on March 4, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP
Visitors watch Ri Ri, a male giant panda, walking in his enclosure at Ueno zoo in Tokyo on March 4, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP
Visitors watch Ri Ri, a male giant panda, walking in his enclosure at Ueno zoo in Tokyo on March 4, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP
Shin Shin, a female giant panda, walks in her cage at Ueno zoo in Tokyo on March 4, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP
Shin Shin, a female giant panda, walks in her cage at Ueno zoo in Tokyo on March 4, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP
A large poster of giant panda couple is displayed in front of a panda cage at the Ueno zoo in Tokyo on March 4, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP
A large poster of giant panda couple is displayed in front of a panda cage at the Ueno zoo in Tokyo on March 4, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP

TOKYO (AFP) - A Tokyo zoo is to shutter its panda display in an effort to encourage the famously lethargic creatures to concentrate on mating without the distraction of spectators, a spokesman said on Wednesday.

Starting Thursday, Shin Shin and her companion Ri Ri will be given a bit of alone time at Ueno Zoo after she began exhibiting signs that she was ready to procreate.

"Shin Shin is moving around more often and bleating like a sheep, a sign that it is mating season," the spokesman said.

"The two have good chemistry and we all hope the couple will bear a healthy new baby," she said.

The couple captivated Japan in 2012 when Shin Shin gave birth to a cub, the first giant panda born at the zoo in 24 years.

However, the baby bear died from pneumonia a short time later, an event that made headlines in the country.

Despite the weight of public expectations, last year's mating season was unsuccessful.

Pandas, whose natural habitat lies in mountainous south-western China, have a low reproductive rate and are under pressure from factors such as habitat loss.

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