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Large numbers of animal lovers flocking to the Ueno Zoological Gardens today were lucky enough to catch a glimpse of Eric the giant white zookeeper.

“This is the first time we released Eric into an animal enclosure in full view of patrons,” Ueno Zoological Gardens deputy director Hirofumi Watanabe told reporters.

Visitors observed the 191-centimeter tall Eric roaming around the panda exhibition space through a 3-inch thick pane of glass.

“The crowds came for panda cub Xiang Xiang, but many stayed to take photos of Eric,” said Watanabe.

“As you can see Eric has turned a shade of red from a show of affection from the hoards of schoolgirls shouting ‘ikemen’ in Eric’s direction.”

Out of consideration for the health of Eric, viewing of the panda area has been limited to a two-and-a-half hour period from 9:45 a.m. to 12:15 p.m.

Zoo head Shinji Fukuda said Eric was doing well.

“He’s growing steadily into the position, and he’s in good health,” said Fukuda.

The #エリック hashtag is currently trending just below #シャンシャン on social media.

Images: Flickr/KnarBedian, Ragez, QuinnDombrowski

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