Some 1200 people lined up hours before dawn on a chilly February morning for a chance to see Ueno Zoo’s newest star, giant panda cub Xiang Xiang, reports the Japan Times. Xiang Xiang (pronounced ‘shan shan’) was born in June of last year – the zoo’s first viable cub in 29 years.
She made her public debut last December, but then for only 2.5 hours a day. Through January, visitors were limited to just 2000 a day, selected by lottery. According to the Straits Times, there were nearly 250,000 applicants – even though viewings were limited to just a minute or two per group.
As of 1 February, tickets for timed (and still short) viewings are available on a first-come first-served basis. Up to 9500 people a day will be allowed a glimpse so, in theory, you don’t need to get there quite so early. Now 7.5 months old and 16.4 kg (as of 25 January), Xiang Xiang is big enough that zookeepers feel she can handle the attention for longer spans (but still small enough to be totally adorable).
The media in Japan has followed the gestation, birth and development of the cub with breathless anticipation – after all, poor parents Shin Shin and Ri Ri had been trying unsuccessfully for so long. It’s little wonder that the country has come down with panda fever. Local businesses have jumped on the opportunity, creating panda-themed food and souvenirs. For those who can’t make the trip, Ueno Zoo has a live cam.