TOKYO (AP) — Tokyo’s new baby panda debuted formally on Dec. 19, immediately melting the hearts of hundreds of lucky fans who managed to obtain zoo tickets, many wearing panda-themed clothes.
Xiang Xiang, which means fragrance in Chinese, was born in June at Tokyo’s Ueno Zoo to its resident panda. The zoo and its neighborhood have celebrated the female panda’s healthy growth, especially after the death of a days-old baby five years ago.
“Kawaii (cute)!’’ screamed many visitors, their voices filling the panda house during the 2 1/2 hour viewing session, as Xiang Xiang crawled on the ground, followed its mother Shin Shin, climbed a tree and played with bamboo branches. The visitors held up smartphones trying to capture every antic of the slow-moving baby panda during their less than 10 minutes of viewing time.
Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike smiled as she came out of the zoo’s panda house, telling reporters that the baby panda was “just adorable.’’
“She climbed a tree and even showed us her cute little back,’’ Koike said. “I was very anxious to see how she could come down.’’
Clinging to the tree trunk with her tiny sharp claws, Xiang Xiang slowly came down to the ground. She then played with a bamboo branch, putting it to her mouth, though she is still being breast-fed by her mother and won’t be able to eat solid food for another month or two.
Xiang Xiang then fell sound asleep, joined by her mother at her side.
The zoo’s deputy director, Hirofumi Watabe, said the panda keepers have worked hard to ensure the baby panda’s safety and health, and he was delighted to see her steady growth.
Many visitors decorated themselves or their children with panda motifs on hats, scarves and even shoes and jackets, or wore black-and-white jackets. In and outside the zoo, panda goods of all kinds were on sale, including stuffed panda dolls, cookies, sweet buns and bread. Some shopkeepers wore panda costumes.
Only 2,000 people were allowed into the panda house, with tickets distributed through a lottery. Zoo officials said Xiang Xiang’s public appearances will be limited for the time being to minimize the stress.