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Tokyo's newest baby panda makes its debut

A baby panda has melted hearts during a special appearance before Tokyo's governor, local schoolchildren and the media one day ahead of its official public debut.

Xiang Xiang, a six-month-old female giant panda, will make its first official appearance on Tuesday in a limited public viewing for fans who obtained tickets through a highly competitive lottery process.

Xiang Xiang - meaning Fragrance - was born on June 12 to a resident panda at Tokyo's Ueno Zoo, and now weighs more than 12 kilograms (26lbs).

Tokyo governor Yuriko Koike smiled as she emerged from the zoo's panda house, telling reporters that the baby panda was "just adorable".

Ms Koike added: "She climbed a tree and even showed us her cute little back.

"I was very anxious to see how she could come down."

Clinging to the tree trunk with her 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 solid food for another month or two.

Xiang Xiang soon fell sound asleep, joined by her mother at her side.

The zoo's deputy director, Hirofumi Watabe, said the panda keepers have worked hard to ensure the baby panda's safety and health, and 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 will become used to the presence of people around her compartment.

Ms Koike 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.

Luka Niitsu, who was invited to Monday's event from nearby Shinobugaoka Elementary School, was able to see Xiang Xiang in action before it went to sleep.

"It was so cute following its mother around," she said.

"I want to come back and see them again."

AP

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