12 July 2012
A baby panda whose birth in Japan last week caused widespread excitement has died, reportedly of pneumonia. The male cub - the offspring of a panda pair loaned from China - was the first to be born at the zoo in Tokyo for twenty-four years.
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The sorrow in Japan at the death of the baby panda was as heartfelt as the euphoria at its long-awaited birth. NHK television broke into its programming to announce the news. The director of Ueno zoo in Tokyo wiped away tears as he explained that the male cub had inhaled milk while breastfeeding, leading to pneumonia. The baby was found motionless on his mother's chest: efforts to revive him failed.
He was conceived naturally by two giant pandas sent from China last year just before the devastating earthquake and tsunami in Japan. The animals provided some welcome lighter news, and their baby's every wriggle was chronicled avidly in the Japanese media. China is famed for its panda diplomacy: last week Beijing expressed hope that the panda's birth would improve its testy relations with Japan.
On Wednesday the Chinese foreign ministry spokesman said China lamented the loss of the cub and believed the Japanese people would be grieving too. But panda births in captivity are notoriously fraught. Some conservationists say these endangered animals are just too rare to be traded as diplomatic trophies - and that moving them between countries is a further risk to their health.
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bring back to life
- conceived naturally
formed in the womb of his mother without artificial help
- chronicled avidly