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'I know this is hard, but we can't afford to keep the panda any more'

KUALA LUMPUR -- Malaysia plans to send a giant panda cub named Nuan Nuan to China next month, citing untenable maintenance costs for the bear who will turn 2 in August, local media reported Thursday.

Environment Minister Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar said it will be sad to part with Nuan Nuan, but maintenance costs were too high, according to Malaysian newspaper The Star.

"If we wanted to keep Nuan Nuan, we would have to expand the Giant Panda Conservation Centre" at the National Zoo where Nuan Nuan was born, said Wan Junaidi, according to The Star.

The expansion costs would come on top of an annual "fee" of US$600,000 that Malaysia pays to China and other expenses, he added.

Wan Junaidi had handed the letter regarding Malaysia's decision to return Nuan Nuan to the Chinese government while on a five-day working visit there, reported The Star.

Nuan Nuan's parents, Xing Xing and Lian Liang, came on a 10-year loan from China when they came to Malaysia two years ago, on May 21, 2014.

The panda bear pair will be living in Malaysia for a decade total to commemorate China and Malaysia's 40 year anniversary, reports said.

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