Tokyo crowds flock to see baby panda on first day

Tokyo crowds flock to see baby panda on first day

TOKYO - AFP
Tokyo crowds flock to see baby panda on first day

Hundreds of fans flocked to a Tokyo zoo on Dec. 19 for the first public viewing of baby panda Xiang Xiang, after winning a lucky lottery ticket that a quarter of a million applied for.

Long queues formed outside the zoo as fans, many wearing panda cub hats or gloves, waited patiently for a brief glimpse of Xiang Xiang, whose name is derived from the Chinese character for "fragrance."

Such was the demand to see the hot new attraction that the zoo held a lottery and only those lucky enough to win the coveted golden ticket gained access to the panda enclosure.

Nearly 250,000 people applied to see Xiang Xiang and the zoo will limit the maximum number of visitors to 2,000 a day until the end of January to reduce stress on the animals.

Inside, Xiang Xiang rolled around in her pen, munching on bamboo and scrambling up trees while her mother watched laconically.

To spare the pandas from overexposure, visitors were allotted only a few minutes to watch them in action before being moved on by a strict team of timekeepers. But this did not dampen the enthusiasm of the fortunate fans who got to see Xiang Xiang on her first day on public display.

Japanese media were no less obsessed with Xiang Xiang's first day, with television channels broadcasting live images of the panda and the crowds. Images of Xiang Xiang were plastered over the front pages.

For avid panda fans who miss out, the zoo will offer a year-long live stream of Xiang Xiang's daily life.     

panda, xiang xiang, tokyo