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Japan

Japan Mourns Sudden Death Of Baby Panda Who'd Cheered Up Nation

NHK, ASAHI SHIMBUN (Japan)

Worldcrunch

TOKYO - Japan is in an unofficial, though undeniable, national state of mourning after the death of a newborn giant panda cub on Wednesday.

National television broadcaster NHK interrupted scheduled programming to announce the baby panda had been found dead by officials at Tokyo's Ueno Zoo.

The cub was placed in an incubator after being found lying on its back on its mother's stomach, but was later pronounced dead at 8:30 a.m. local time, according to the Asahi Shimbun daily.

Officials said the cub may have contracted pneumonia after the mother's milk got into its lungs.

Barely a week old, it was the first giant panda cub born in captivity in Japan for more than 24 years and had created enormous excitement in the country with regular news bulletins on the little bear's progress.

The head of Ueno zoo, on the verge of tears during a televised press conference, announced there will be a space for people to lay flowers and pray for the un-named panda cub.

The cub was also a symbol of diplomacy between Japan and China. The cub's parents, Shin Shin and Ri Ri (or Zhen Zhen and Li Li in Chinese) arrived from China last year at a cost of $1 million, and had provided some welcome good news after the devastating earthquake in 2011.

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