TAIPEI, Jan. 6 -- Yuan Zai, the first panda cub born in Taipei, made her much-anticipated public debut on Monday and attracted thousands of visitors who lined up just for a peek at the cub.
The six-month-old panda cub, born to a pair of giant pandas given as a goodwill gift to Taiwan by the Chinese mainland, became immensely popular even before the public appearance, as the Taipei Zoo has been streaming her life online. The media and public in Taiwan have relished the cute cub's every move for months.
On the streets of Taipei on Monday, buses painted with cartoon images of the panda cub were spotted, and the traffic bulletin announced, "Please take public transit to go see Yuan Zai."
At the Taipei Zoo, 1,200 people had been queuing for tickets before the panda hall opened at 9:00 a.m., and some took time off work or school for a face-to-face viewing of the cub.
Huang Wei-cheng, a sophomore at Taipei-based Shih Hsih University, was the first to meet Yuan Zai. He took the earliest metro in the morning and arrived at the zoo at 7:00 a.m., then rushed to get back early for classes.
"Yuan Zai is so cute, even cuter than I imagined," Huang said after his brief meeting with the baby panda.
At the enclosure Yuan Zai shares with her mother, the cub climbed tree trunks and ground her teeth on bamboo and a carrot. Each of her moves raised cries of "so-cute" from the crowd and a wave of camera shutter clicks.
To manage the crowd, the zoo required visitors to pick up numbered tickets at the zoo entrance and follow the designated route to the panda hall. Time spent inside the hall was limited to 10 minutes per group, and a maximum of 19,200 people have been allowed entry per day as the zoo expected an influx of panda fans.
As the cub sleeps 70 percent of the day, those who saw her awake were exceptionally delighted.
"Yuan Zai is very active. I think it's all worth the 1.5-hour wait," a mother of a nine-year-old surnamed Chang said.
Souvenir shops were also packed. An 85-year-old grandmother, surnamed Liu, bought three panda toys for her great-grandchildren.
"I have been following Yuan Zai on TV for months, so I'm glad I saw her myself. I will take my great-grandchildren here during the Spring Festival," Liu said.
Taipei's city government has launched more than 30 licensed products, including baby strollers, toys, cell phone and tablet covers, T-shirts, and cups -- all bearing Yuan Zai' s likeness -- and estimated the products would generate revenue of 500 million New Taiwan Dollars (16.6 million U.S.dollars) within half a year.
Yuan Zai, born on July 6, is the first cub born to "Tuan Tuan" and "Yuan Yuan," who were given as a goodwill gift to Taiwan by the Chinese mainland. The combination of their names means "reunion" in Chinese.