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Ueno zoo keepers rejoice over panda birth, brace for tough task of raising cub

Ueno Zoological Gardens director Yutaka Fukuda, left, and section chief Mikako Kaneko are seen during a news conference on the birth of a new giant panda cub in Tokyo's Taito Ward on June 12, 2017. (Mainichi)

Panda keepers at Tokyo's Ueno Zoological Gardens rejoiced as giant panda Shin Shin gave birth to the zoo's first panda cub in five years on June 12. Now, they brace for the difficulties of raising a baby panda, which can be a complicated task.

"We were all happy, but it was more of a relief," said Mikako Kaneko, a section chief at Ueno Zoological Gardens who witnessed 11-year-old Shin Shin's labor, during a news conference on June 12. Shin Shin had also showed signs of pregnancy four years ago, but it turned out to be a "pseudo pregnancy."

Recently, Shin Shin had been spending her days mostly unmoved, but since June 10 she kept pacing in her cage. The panda keepers had been watching the bear around the clock with support from a panda expert invited from China.

By the predawn hours of June 12, Shin Shin was constantly minding her genital area, and at 10:57 a.m. her water broke. She then lied down and appeared to be having contractions. It was when the keepers noticed Shin Shin licking her genitals they heard a baby cry. It was the 106th day since mating between Shin Shin and 11-year-old Ri Ri was confirmed for the first time in some four years on Feb. 27.

The new mother bear held her baby at the right side of her chest soon after the birth. Ueno zoo director Yutaka Fukuda said, "I get the impression that she is protecting her offspring. I think she'll make a good mother." He added, at the same time, "We'll need to wait and see if she continues to take good care of the cub."

When the panda cub will be put on public display is yet to be determined. The zoo is considering the date around six months from now while paying close attention to the cub's growth.

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