December 23, 2007 in Nation/World

Panda’s debut draws a crowd

Associated Press The Spokesman-Review
 
Associated Press photo

Zhen Zhen peers over a stump at the San Diego Zoo on Friday. Associated Press
(Full-size photo)

SAN DIEGO – San Diego’s most popular resident finally met her fans, up close and personal: Giant panda cub Zhen Zhen made her public debut Saturday at the San Diego Zoo.

People were lined up when the zoo’s gates opened at 9 a.m. and the 17-pound, black-and-white cub was waiting at the Giant Panda Research Station’s “classroom” exhibit for them. That’s where Zhen Zhen remained for the next two hours.

The 4-month-old’s public premiere “went very well,” zoo spokesman Andrew Circo said. “We weren’t sure how much interest there’d be, since we have four pandas,” he said. “But a lot of people came out to see her.”

Since her birth on Aug. 3, Zhen Zhen, whose name means “precious” in Chinese, has been living in a den out of the public view. Zhen Zhen, however, has been visible to the world via camera on the zoo’s Web site.

Zhen Zhen will have two hours of public playtime daily during her first week, Circo said.

The cub will spend more time outside as her stamina increases, said Kathy Hawk, the zoo’s senior panda keeper. As she gets older, she’ll start spending nights outside if zookeepers can’t lure her down from her tree perches when it gets dark.

On Friday, as Zhen Zhen was introduced to the media, the cub appeared unperturbed by visitors oohing and aahing. But Hawk said the amount of time Zhen Zhen spends in the public eye will depend on her mother’s response.

“She takes her cues from her mother,” Hawk said, “so as long as Bai Yun is fine, she’ll be fine.”

Zhen Zhen could be spotted Saturday afternoon via Web cam taking a nap.


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