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Tokyo's baby panda faces selected guests and media

A baby panda has made a special appearance in front of Tokyo's governor, a group of local schoolchildren and the media one day ahead of its official public debut.

Xiang Xiang, a six-month-old female, will debut on Tuesday in a limited public viewing for avid fans who obtained tickets through a highly competitive lottery process.

Xiang Xiang, or "Fragrance" in Chinese, was born on June 12 to a resident giant panda at Tokyo's Ueno Zoo and now weighs more than 26lb (12kg).

Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike was all smiles after coming out of the zoo's panda house, telling reporters that the baby panda was "just adorable".

"She climbed a tree and even showed us her cute little back," Ms Koike said. "I was very anxious to see how she could come down."

Clinging to the tree trunk with her tiny but sharp claws, Xiang Xiang slowly came down to the ground.

She then played with a bamboo branch, putting it to her mouth, though she is still being breast-fed by her mother and will not be able to eat for another month or two.

Xiang Xiang then fell sound asleep, with her mother at her side.

The zoo's deputy director, Hirofumi Watabe, said panda keepers have worked hard to ensure the safety and health of the baby panda and that he was delighted to see her steady growth.

Since October, dozens of zoo keepers and officials have participated in Xiang Xiang's training so she gets used to the presence of people around her compartment.

Ms Koike noted how rare pandas are and said she hopes children who come to see Xiang Xiang will learn lessons about life.

Zoo officials said Xiang Xiang's public appearances will be limited to two-and-a-half hours a day for the time being to minimise stress.

AP

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