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Giant panda cub Xiang Xiang at Tokyo's Ueno zoo to turn 2 this week

by Ryusei Takahashi

Staff Writer

Few birthdays call for greater celebration than that of Xiang Xiang, a female giant panda cub living in Tokyo’s Ueno zoo who will turn 2 years old on Wednesday.

Ahead of her birthday, the zoo released on Monday an update on her growth.

Xiang Xiang was born on June 12, 2017, at just 147 grams to Shin Shin and Ri Ri, both of whom arrived in Japan in February 2011 and live in adjacent enclosures. The panda cub was supposed to be returned to China after two years, but China has agreed to extend her stay in Japan until the end of 2020.

As of last Wednesday, Xiang Xiang weighed 61.6 kilograms. That is about half the weight of a fully grown giant panda, according to Yasumasa Tomita, director and general curator at Ueno Zoological Gardens.

“Xiang Xiang is still a child but she’s well on her way to adulthood,” Tomita told reporters Monday. “I’m grateful that she’s been able to live a healthy life so far.”

Xiang Xiang appeared oblivious to the journalists surrounding her enclosure. She was preoccupied by an endless supply of tasty bamboo branches, trees and other wooden structures just begging to be climbed, and a pathway surrounding the enclosure — which she ran with a noticeable spring in her step.

“Xiang Xiang doesn’t seem to mind the rain,” Tomita said. “Actually I think she quite likes it.”