Giant panda couple mate for the first time in four years, sending nearby Chinese restaurant shares soaring

Gives hope for new panda baby after Shin Shin's last cub died of pneumonia

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A pair of giant pandas have mated for the first time in four years, and the possibility of a baby sent shares in a Chinese restaurant near the zoo soaring.

Ri Ri, the male, and Shin Shin were allowed into the same pen at Tokyo's Ueno Zoo for about an hour on Sunday morning and did the deed in a speedy 52 seconds.

The pair, both 11, live apart and were separated again four minutes after mating. Pandas are solitary creatures and can fight if kept together.

Shares in Totenko, the Tokyo-based operator of a Chinese restaurant, jumped after the news, fuelling hopes that a baby would boost tourism in the area, Bloomberg reported.

Public viewing of Shin Shin and Ri Ri was halted last week in preparation for the mating session, according to a statement from Ueno Zoological Gardens.

Totenko, which operates a flagship eatery walking distance from the zoo, surged as much as 9.9 percent in afternoon trading after the announcement of the coupling on Monday.

The stock closed up 2.9 per cent on trading volume, almost five times the three-month average.

Totenko’s shares have been whipsawed by panda news before. Shares surged in 2013 after Shin Shin appeared to be expecting, but plunged a month later when the zoo announced she had shown false signs of pregnancy.

In 2012, she gave birth only for the baby panda to die after less than a week. At the time, the economic impact of the offspring was estimated at an annual 10 billion yen ($89 million/£71m). 

The two pandas arrived in Tokyo just 18 days before the March 2011 earthquake and nuclear disaster. Each year the zoo donates $950,000 to panda research in China in return for the animals, which are the main attraction and the first thing people see when they enter the main gate of the complex.

The zoo was one of the first outside China to host giant pandas. In 1972, a pair were given as a gift to mark the restoration of diplomatic ties between Japan and China. Visiting the pandas is hugely popular with Tokyo residents.