The death of a rare newborn Giant Panda at Tokyo's oldest zoo has interrupted regular TV programming and sent shock waves across Japan.
The unnamed male cub, weighing just 144 grams, was found lying on its back against his mother's stomach early this morning. The Globe and Mail says the zoo issued a statement saying "they administered cardiac massage and other treatment but they confirmed the death at 8:30am." It is believed to have died of pneumonia when being fed by its mother Shin Shin and milk got into his lung.
The Globe and Mail says the baby was hailed a rare success for the Ueno Zoo's captive breeding program. It was the first panda born at the zoo in 24 years and the only one conceived naturally. Every night newscasts devoted a segment to update the public on the cub's progress.
At an emotional news conference today Zoo General Manager Toshimitsu Doi said "we are very disappointed" as he wiped away tears. The Globe and Mail quotes Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda saying "it is very disappointing. We were all looking forward" to the cub's development.
TV newscasters broke into regular scheduled programming to break the news to viewers and Japanese major department store Matsuzakaya has cancelled it's "Happy Panda Week" celebration.
Shin Shin and her mate Ri Ri have been on loan from China for the past year at a cost of about $1 million annually. Today China's Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin issued a statement saying "we lament the loss of the cub and believe the Japanese people who have been looking forward to seeing the cub, will also lament this loss." After the cub was born the Chinese government expressed hope that "people to people sentiment and overall relations between China and Japan" would be improved by the cub's birth.
There are just 1600 Giant Pandas still in the wild and another 300 remain in captivity, mainly in China.