First Taiwan-born panda cub Yuan Zai makes public debut

First Taiwan-born panda cub Yuan Zai makes public debut

TAIPEI - The first giant panda cub born in Taiwan made her much-anticipated public debut Monday, drawing thousands of exciting fans who flocked to her enclosure.

Yuan Zai lumbered up and down the wooden structure inside an exhibition enclosure while mother Yuan Yuan was munching bamboo.

Yuan Zai entertained the crowds for 40 minutes before falling asleep.

"Her muscles are getting stronger and stronger. It is no problem for her to crawl up and down the structure," Taipei Zoo spokesman Chao Ming-chieh said.

"But whenever her activity slows down, then she is telling you that she needs a snap."

The exhibition centre at the Taipei Zoo was swamped with fans - many of them parents with their children - keen to get the first pictures of the  six-month-old cub.

Panda-mania swept Taiwan after Yuan Zai was delivered on July 6 following a series of artificial insemination sessions because her parents - Tuan Tuan and Yuan Yuan - failed to conceive naturally.

She weighed 180 grams (6.35 ounces) at birth, but now weighs around 14 kilograms.

Zoo authorities said 1,200 visitors flocked to the enclosure within minutes of the 9am (0100 GMT)opening time.

Each visitor was permitted to stay around the enclosure for a maximum of 10 minutes, with zoo keepers limiting the total number entering each day to 19,200.

Zookeepers had to separate tiny Yuan Zai from her mother a few days after birth. They raised her in an incubator with round-the-clock monitoring after she was slightly injured in the leg.

The mother and daughter were reunited for the first time on August 13, an encounter that saw the giant panda licking and cuddling her baby before they fell asleep together inside a cage. Footage was broadcast around the world and made waves on the Internet.

Tuan Tuan and Yuan Yuan, whose names mean "reunion" in Chinese, were given to Taiwan by China in December 2008 and have become star attractions at Taipei Zoo, as well as a symbol of warming ties between the former bitter rivals.

Fewer than 1,600 pandas remain in the wild, mainly in China's Sichuan province, with a further 300 in captivity around the world.


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