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Thais pack Chiang Mai zoo to see baby panda

THOUSANDS of excited visitors flocked yesterday to a zoo in Thailand for the first public viewing of a baby panda, which has been featured on Thai front pages almost every day since her birth six weeks ago.

The coming-out party at the Chiang Mai Zoo included a parade led by an orangutan. Zoo officials stood beside the cub's incubator and tried to position its head so visitors streaming past could get a good look.

The baby panda is tiny enough to be held in the hands of a zoo staffer.

Thais have been captivated by the cub since its birth on May 27. For six years, the zoo had tried to mate its two adult pandas, both on loan from China. They held a mock wedding for the pair, showed the male "porn" videos of pandas mating, and finally turned to artificial insemination.

Newspapers have reported the baby panda's milestones and the public's reaction, including a giant cake measuring 1.2 meters by 1.6 meters donated by a Chiang Mai bakery to celebrate its one month birthday. Some hotels are offering "meet the panda" rates for the next few months.

A public competition to name the cub drew more than 500,000 entries, which have been whittled down to four finalists. The name will be chosen next month.

Thailand has joined China, Japan and the United States as countries that have bred the rare mammals in captivity.


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