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Panda takes first steps into the world

This is little Fan Xing's introduction to the world and he seems quite at home at Ouwehands Zoo in the Netherlands. Since his birth on May 1 the young giant panda stayed in the maternity pen with his mother Wu Wen. The 14kg cub sleeps four fours between meals, followed by short and careful walks and long stretching exercises. Zoologist José Kok says: "As you could see, this is really the moment that he starts to eat bamboo. In the beginning, it was only nibbling on it and playing with it, but now you can see that he starts to eat, and we only know if he eats as soon as there are pieces of bamboo in his poo of course, we didn't see that yet, but I think it will happen not far from here." Fan Xing's parents went to the Netherlands in 2017 from the panda rescue centre in China. The bears were supposed to breed because there are not many giant pandas left in the wild. "You know, we are very eager to participate in breeding programmes and especially for the giant panda because the giant panda is the symbol for threatened nature. So right from the beginning, when we started this project, it was our aim to get the pandas here and do the breeding. Yes, but when the pandas arrived here, mum and dad, they were only three years old. So we had to wait another three years before they were finally able to mate and get a cub," Kok says. The young panda's name Fan Xing refers to Van Gogh's painting Starry Night. Fan comes from Fan Gao, which means Van Gogh in Chinese, while Xing, which means star, and symbolises hope, is also a reference to the panda's father Xing Ya, meaning Elegant Star. The mother's name Wu Wen means Beautiful Powerful Cloud. Giant pandas are solitary animals. The male panda Xing Ya lives in a separate enclosure. It took a lot of time and creativity to bring the two together to mate. Kok says: "We always said we prefer the natural way, and we saw right from the beginning when the female is in oestrus, we had them close to each other. Normally they live apart, but when she was in distress we would have them a little bit closer to each other, and we could see that, wow, they didn't hate each other, you know, and that was good news because if there was not this mix is good, good feeling between the two of them, you would never have a mating." Wu Wen now has at least a few years of rest before another breeding attempt is made. In the wild, pandas do not often get pregnant, as the bears live solitary lives and females are only fertile for a few days each year. The Ouwehands zoo in Rhene is the only zoo in the Netherlands where visitors can see giant pandas. The zoo and the Chinese panda rescue centre made the deal giving the panda's family only a temporary home. Kok knows the panda's time is limited. She says: "Well, the cub Fan Fan Xing, he can stay here until he's four years old and then he has to go back to China and really normally the cubs would stay with mum for about two years. So we have to see how the relationship between these two develops. And definitely, we're going to get them together again for another mating in the future." Wu Wen and Xing Ya will stay in the Netherlands for fifteen years.

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