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Tokyo's Baby Panda Appears Before Selected Guests, Media

  • Associated Press

Female giant panda cub Xiang Xiang climbs a tree during a press preview at the Ueno Zoological gardens in Tokyo Monday, Dec. 18, 2017.

A baby panda made a special appearance Monday before Tokyo's governor, a group of local schoolchildren and the media one day ahead of its official public debut.

Xiang Xiang, a 6-month-old female giant panda, will debut Tuesday in a limited public viewing for avid fans who obtained tickets through a highly competitive lottery process.

Xiang Xiang, or "Fragrance'' in Chinese, was born June 12 to a resident panda at Tokyo's Ueno Zoo and now weighs more than 12 kilograms (26 pounds).

Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike was all smiles after coming 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 but 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 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 that panda keepers have worked hard to ensure the safety and health of the baby panda and that he was delighted to see her steady growth.

Since October, dozens of zoo keepers and officials have participated in Xiang Xiang's training so she gets used to the presence of people around her compartment.

Koike noted how rare pandas are and said she hopes children who come to see Xiang Xiang will learn lessons about life.

Zoo officials said Xiang Xiang's public appearances will be limited to 2 1/2 hours a day for the time being to minimize stress.

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