Tokyo's newest baby panda Xiang Xiang unveiled by governor

Xiang Xiang turned 100 days last week, which makes her old enough to get a name, after she became the first panda in 30 years to survive this long at a Tokyo zoo.
Xiang Xiang was born at Tokyo's Ueno Zoo in June.
Xiang Xiang was born at Tokyo's Ueno Zoo in June.PHOTO: REUTERS
Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike at a news conference to announce the name of the new panda cub, born at Tokyo's Ueno Zoological Gardens.
Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike at a news conference to announce the name of the new panda cub, born at Tokyo's Ueno Zoological Gardens.PHOTO: REUTERS

TOKYO (REUTERS) - Tokyo's newest baby panda, who is just beginning to crawl and has now lived long enough to get a name, will be called Xiang Xiang to evoke the image of petals unfurling, the governor of the Japanese capital, Ms Yuriko Koike, said on Monday (Sept 25).

Japan celebrated the birth of the healthy female cub in June, five years after her mother, Shin Shin, lost another cub within days of its birth. It has been nearly three decades since a baby panda at the capital's Ueno Zoo has survived this long.

The name, written with the Chinese character for "fragrant", was chosen from more than 322,000 suggestions submitted by the public. Most pandas are named at around 100 days of age, which Xiang Xiang reached last week.

"This name evokes the idea of fragrance, and it's extremely cute," Ms Koike, a former ruling party lawmaker who dealt Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's Liberal Democratic Party a historic defeat in Tokyo elections in July, told a news conference.

The media-savvy Koike revealed the name just hours before Mr Abe was set to announce a snap election that her party and its allies are readying to fight, under the banner of a new conservative party.

The baby, at birth small enough to fit in the palm of a hand, now has typical panda markings and weighs roughly 6kg. She can support herself on all fours and is taking tentative steps.

Shin Shin and her partner, Ri Ri, arrived from China in February 2011 and went on view soon after the following month's devastating earthquake, offering a scrap of good news for an anguished nation.

A male cub born in 2012 was the first in 24 years at the Ueno Zoo, but six days after its birth, it was found lying motionless on its mother's belly and efforts to revive it failed.