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Germany to welcome two giant pandas
by Staff Writers
Berlin (AFP) June 14, 2017

Panda Watch: Tokyo zoo says new cub in good health
Tokyo (AFP) June 13, 2017 - A baby panda whose birth this week delighted Japan and has dominated news coverage ever since appears to be in good health, the zoo said Tuesday.

Tokyo's Ueno Zoo celebrated the tiny baby's arrival Monday, prompting rolling television reports from the hordes of journalists who showed up to mark the happy occasion.

On Tuesday, eleven-year-old mum Shin Shin cuddled her tiny offspring tightly in an enclosure away from her eager fans -- with a "Please Be Quiet" sign nearby.

"She is always holding the cub" to keep it warm, zoo director Yutaka Fukuda said.

"We periodically hear its cries so it seems to be in good health."

Zoo officials said they were still not able to give the size and weight of the cub, nor whether it is a boy or a girl.

Pandas are born pink, hairless and weighing around 100 grams (three-and-a-half ounces) -- so small it can be difficult to determine their sex.

Zoo officials are keen to see whether the new cub is drinking Shin Shin's milk.

Meanwhile, panda fever was sweeping Japan's capital.

One department store decorated its roof with panda-shaped balloons and a bakery near the zoo sold panda-patterned bread.

Streets in the area were decorated with "Happy birthday baby panda" signs.

Shares of a restaurant chain that has its main outlet near the zoo soared on Monday in response to hopes the baby will draw hungry crowds to the area.

The birth of the as-yet-unnamed cub comes five years after the last panda arrived at Ueno Zoo.

However, the happiness was short-lived that time, with the baby dying from pneumonia six days later. The death reduced one of the zoo's directors to tears.

Two long-awaited giant pandas from China will arrive in Germany in two weeks time, with Berlin rolling out the red carpet for the furry ambassadors' arrival.

The two new residents, Meng Meng and Jiao Qing, will fly into Berlin on a special Lufthansa cargo plane on June 24, accompanied by two Chinese vets, Berlin zoo's chief vet, and a tonne of bamboo.

The pandas will be served "bamboo snacks" and water, and their transport box kept dry and odourless with absorbent mats during the 12 hour and 20 minute-long flight.

Meng Meng means "dream" in Chinese while the zoo says Jiao Qing translates to "darling", although the Chinese characters are a composite of "tender" and "festive".

Ahead of their arrival, Berlin zoo, the bears' new home, has built a 1,000 metre square (10,700 square feet) enclosure, which includes a wooded climbing area.

The zoo will also pay a million dollars a year (920,000 euros) for the 15-year contract to host the pair, with most of the funds going towards a breeding research programme in China and the protection of pandas in their natural habitat.

Chancellor Angela Merkel previously announced that Germany was in talks with Beijing to bring a pair of the rare bears to Berlin during a visit to China in 2015

Famed for its "panda diplomacy", China has sent its unofficial national mascot to only around a dozen countries, to signal their healthy ties with Beijing.

After a period of acclimatisation in their new Berlin home, Meng Meng and Jiao Qing are expected to presented to the public.

As Chinese President Xi Jinping is due to travel to Germany to attend the G20 summit on July 7 and 8, German media has speculated that he and Merkel may jointly unveil the cuddly bears on July 5.

China has previously gifted three pandas to Germany, but the last one, 34-year-old Bao Bao, died in Berlin in 2012 -- he had been the oldest male panda in the world.

Fewer than 2,000 giant pandas are estimated to remain in the wild, in three provinces in south-central China.



Japan zoo toasts birth of panda cub, snug in mum's furry hug
Tokyo (AFP) June 12, 2017
A Japanese zoo celebrated the first birth of a baby panda in five years Monday, with the tiny cub small enough to fit in the palm of a human hand. Eleven-year-old mum Shin Shin gave birth just before noon, officials at Tokyo's Ueno Zoo said in a statement. Pandas are born pink, hairless and weighing around 100 grams (three-and-a-half ounces) - so small it can be difficult to determine t ... read more

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