TOKYO – Panda cub Xiang Xiang was presented to the media at Ueno Zoo in Tokyo on Monday, a day before being unveiled to the public.
A total of 130 guests, including students and the wife of the Chinese ambassador to Japan, as well as members of the press, were lucky enough to be the first to see the cub, one week after she turned six months old. The zoo received about 250,000 requests as part of a lottery to see her.
Xiang Xiang, who shares her name with the Chinese character for “fragrance,” is the first giant panda cub to make a public debut since Yu Yu in 1988.
Xiang Xiang was born on June 12, and is the offspring of Shin Shin (female) and Ri Ri, a pair brought from China in 2011. A year later Shin Shin gave birth to a cub – the zoo’s first in 24 years – which died of pneumonia just six days later.
From Tuesday through to the end of January, public viewing hours for Xiang Xiang will be limited to avoid agitating the panda.
The zoo has also installed a live video stream from inside Xiang Xiang’s enclosure so those who cannot enter the premise can still have the chance to see the cub.
The giant panda is one of the world’s most vulnerable species due to its difficulty in reproducing, a problem caused by the loss of their natural habitat and inbreeding, in addition to the short fertile period of females, which is about 36 hours a year.
According to latest data provided by China – where most wild giant pandas live – the country is home to 1,864 giant pandas, while 371 live in captivity around the world.