Fu Long the panda celebrates turning two in Vienna zoo

By AFP

June 18, 2010 Updated Aug 23, 2009 at 9:31 PM EDT

Fu Long the panda, Europe's first to be conceived naturally while in captivity, celebrated his second birthday with a huge bamboo cake at an Austrian zoo on Sunday.

Crowds of well-wishers turned out to watch the giant panda, whose name means "Happy Dragon" in Mandarin, tuck into his one-metre-high, iced birthday cake at Schoenbrunn Zoo in Vienna.

Keepers at the zoo prepared the party for Fu Long, which involved games and puzzles.

The male panda weighed a mere 100 grammes (0.22 pounds) when he was born in 2007, but a voracious appetite has seen him grow to 50 kilogrammes (110 pounds).

He eats around 20 kilogrammes of bamboo a day, according to zoo spokeswoman Karin Kruckenfellner, making him "almost as greedy as an adult".

"He still feeds from his mother Yang Yang once or twice a day," she added.

Fu Long is the son of the zoo's two giant pandas in residence, Yang Yang and Long Hui.

The couple came to Vienna in 2003 as a loan from China and became an item a year later.

In November, Fu Long will bid farewell to Vienna and be transferred to the Wolong nature reserve in China's Sichuan province.

Coupling of pandas in captivity is extremely difficult, since females are only fertile three or four days a year. Another panda was born at a Madrid zoo in 1982 thanks to artificial insemination.

Less than 1,600 giant pandas remain in the wild, according to the Vienna zoo.

China began in 1984 its long-term panda lending program to foreign zoos, which pay up to a million dollars a year to house the creatures.




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