Tokyo: A giant baby panda, the first ever to be born at Japan's oldest zoo in 24 years through natural breeding, died today of pneumonia.
The panda cub born last week at Tokyo's Ueno Zoo died just a week after its birth sparked excitement across Japan.
The birth was hailed as a rare success for Japan's captive breeding programme.
The male cub was found by zoo staff lying on his back on his mother Shin Shin's stomach this morning, with his heart and lungs not moving, Kyodo news reported.
Resuscitation was attempted but unsuccessfully, Tokyo metropolitan government said, and his death was confirmed at 8:30 am (2330 GMT).
Shin Shin and her mate Ri Ri were leased from China last year to the zoo operated by the Tokyo Metropolitan government at an annual cost of about one million dollars.
The baby was hailed in China, which has sometimes hostile relations with neighbouring Japan.
"The giant pandas are messengers of friendship," a Chinese foreign ministry spokesman said in response to news of the birth last week.
"We hope that people-to-people sentiment and overall relations between China and Japan can be promoted because of the birth of the cub."
China is famed for its "panda diplomacy", using the bears as diplomatic gifts to other countries. About 1,600 remain in the wild in China, with some 300 others in captivity worldwide -- mostly in China.
As many as 16 giant pandas have been born in Japan, according to reports.
First Published: Wednesday, July 11, 2012, 16:25