Two thousand people, many of them weeping, have attended a funeral service for Lan Lan, Tokyo's world- famous female panda.
Two thousand people, many of them weeping, have attended a funeral service for Lan Lan, Tokyo's world- famous female panda.Ten year-old Lan Lan, a gift from the Chinese government in 1972, died earlier this month. Her funeral was held at Tokyo's Ueno Zoo on Thursday (20 September)
SYNOPSIS: Life is lonely now for Lan Lan's mate Kan Kan. He moves around his cage as if looking for something he's lost. The cage next door is empty where Lan Lan spent the last days of her life.
Each day, crowds form just to look at Lan Lan's deserted pen. Gift and flowers flood in from all over the country.
Since Lan Lan's death on September the fourth, Tokyo's Ueno Zoo has received thousands of wreaths. Two thousand people attended the panda's funeral. On show were traditional Japanese funeral presents of bamboo and baskets.
People displayed their grief openly.
Japan's former premier Kakuei Tanaka responded to the nation's grief. He issued a statement promising he would ask China for another giant panda to replace ten-year-old Lan Lan.
The zoo's other animals also paid their respect to Lan Lan. Especially sad was the fact that when the panda died she was found to be pregnant for the first time. Two unborn baby pandas were found by surgeons investigating the kidney illness which killed her.
The crowds attending Lan Lan's funeral heard zoo director Shigeharu Asakura deliver a eulogy. He said that if she had lived another month, she might have produced the first baby pandas ever to have been born in a zoo outside China. A spokesman from the Chinese embassy added that Lan Lan had made any "impressive contribution" to Sino-Japanese friendship.
But it was the children for whom the occasion was the saddest. A little boy and girl read their message to Lan Lan. "Although Kan Kan will be lonely", they said "We will look after him. So rest in peace, Lan Lan, and make good friends with the animals in heaven."
A llama, a pony and then an orang utang sent their own symbolic farewell message to Lan Lan - with flowers. The ceremony was also in honour of the three hundred and fourteen other zoo animals who have died at Ueno Zoo this year - form cockroaches to camels.
Photographs of Lan Lan sold in their hundreds, and tearful girls placed garlands of flowers on the panda's shrine. Lan Lan is to be stuffed and kept on permanent display at Tokyo Zoo.