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Male panda at Dutch zoo turns out to be female

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A two-year-old giant panda at a Dutch zoo has caused a stir by turning out to be a female and not a male as initially thought.

The discovery at the Ouwehands Zoo was made during a routine medical check-up on Fan Xing, who was the first giant panda to be born in the Netherlands.

The zoo's manager confirmed the news on national television late Thursday.

"Fan Xing surprised us," said Jose Kok, in a statement released by the zoo after the broadcast interview.

"For us, the sex was just a fact we wanted to check during the exam under anaesthesia, to be sure."

The panda underwent a short medical examination a few months after being born, which has to be done quickly so that the baby can be reunited with its mother.

But Kok said that determining sex is difficult in a young baby not under anaesthetic.

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"We were so convinced the baby was male we never doubted it," she said.

Fan Xing was born on May 1 to two giant pandas — mum Wu Wen and dad Xing Ya — who were loaned to the Netherlands by China in 2017 for 15 years.

Her name was revealed in October. "Fan" is a reference to the Chinese name for Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh and "Xing" means star, a reference to van Gogh's famous painting, Starry Night.

She will soon be sent back to China as planned as part of an international breeding programme.

Giant pandas were removed from the International Union for the Conservation of Nature's red list of endangered species in 2016.

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