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Thousands of fans converge on Taipei Zoo to greet panda cub

TAIPEI -- The public debut of a six-month-old giant panda cub Yuanzai at Taipei Zoo attracted huge crowds of visitors yesterday, with 12,000 tickets for the panda house issued as of noon.

A queue began forming hours before the panda house opened at 9:10 a.m. and the long lines remained throughout the morning, with some people jostling and growing impatient as the number of visitors to the panda house has been capped at 19,200 per day.

Inside the area, the crowd screamed “Yuanzai,” occasionally bursting into laughter or cheers and taking pictures of the cub that has created a big sensation in Taiwan since its birth last July.

The cub, meanwhile, appeared unperturbed by the excitement as it padded around its enclosure, climbed up and down its perch and eventually took a nap after about an hour of activity.

“It's super, super cute!” said Yao Chu-ling from Taichung in central Taiwan, who was visiting the zoo with her husband and two children.

Masae Amano, a Japanese woman who had queued up from 6:30 a.m., said the cub looked bigger than she had thought.

While the visitors gushed over the cub, its mother Yuan Yuan munched on bamboo leaves.

Around noon, the mother tried to wake her sleeping cub, which drew even more excitement among the visitors, some of whom tried to rush back into the panda house despite the staff's efforts to stop them.

The number of tickets issued by the zoo as of that time for the panda house was around 12,000.

The excitement was reflected in a rush for panda-themed souvenirs such as pens, key rings and stuffed toys at the zoo.

“We are too busy to estimate the sales volume so far,” store manager Lu Yi-chu told CNA.

Yuanzai was born after four years of artificial insemination attempts, using sperm from the only other giant panda at the zoo, Tuan Tuan.

The pair of giant pandas was given to Taiwan four years ago by China to symbolize warmer ties between the two sides.

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One zoo staff holds Yuan Zai (圓仔) and carefully puts her on the wooden stand in the panda house, yesterday. During Yuan Zai's debut yesterday she repeatedly moved to a corner, making it difficult for visitors to see her. Afraid of disappointing the guests, the staff entered the panda exhibit and moved Yuan Zai (圓仔) closer to the window. (CNA)

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