The first giant panda cub born in Taiwan made her much-anticipated public debut on Monday, entertaining thousands of excited fans who flocked to her enclosure.
Yuan Zai clambered around a wooden structure inside the enclosure while mother Yuan Yuan munched bamboo. The cub
captivated 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 nap."
The exhibition centre at 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.
Yuan Zai, the first Taiwan-born baby panda, plays inside its enclosure at the Taipei City Zoo. (AFP Photo)
She weighed 180 grams (6.35 ounces) at birth, but now weighs around 14 kilograms.
Zoo authorities said that visitors flocked to the enclosure when the zoo's gates were opened. Each was permitted to stay for a maximum of 10 minutes, limiting the total entering each day to 19,200.
Zookeepers had to separate tiny Yuan Zai from her mother a few days after birth after her leg was slightly injured, raising her in an incubator with round-the-clock monitoring.
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. The 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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