Japan zoo has first panda birth in five years

Japan zoo has first panda birth in five years
Small bundle of joy: Ueno Zoo official Mikako Kaneko showing footage from the panda cub’s birth during a press conference in Tokyo. Looking on is zoo director Yutaka Fukuda.

TOKYO - A Japanese zoo celebrated the first birth of a baby panda in five years, with the cub small enough to fit in the palm of a human hand.

Eleven-year-old mum Shin Shin gave birth just before noon yesterday, officials at Tokyo's Ueno Zoo said in a statement.

Pandas are born pink and hairless, and weigh around 100g - so small that it can be difficult to determine their gender.

Shin Shin, who mated with male Ri Ri in February, had earlier given birth in 2012 - the first time at the zoo in 24 years, but the cub died from pneumonia six days later.

She delighted well-wishers in Tokyo last month by lazily munching on bamboo and playfully rubbing the husks on her furry belly before being moved into confinement.

Footage from a camera inside the panda enclosure showed the moment of birth, when the screeching noises of the tiny baby could clearly be heard as Shin Shin scooped it up with her mouth.

Zoo officials were not immediately able to give exact details about the size and weight of the cub as the proud mum protectively cuddled her newborn.

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