US zoo invites panda fans to choose name for infant cub

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 07 November, 2013, 11:46am
UPDATED : Thursday, 07 November, 2013, 4:59pm

The Smithsonian, the US national zoo in Washington, has asked the public to choose a name for the panda cub born there in the summer.

On its website, the zoo invited the public to chose between five Chinese names for the female cub by November 22.

The names were picked by the former US ambassador to China, Gary Locke, China's ambassador to the US, Cui Tiankai, Smithsonian staff, panda keepers at the Wolong reservoir in Sichuan province and a fundraising group for the zoo.

Their picks are:

  • Bao Bao (宝宝): Precious, treasure. 
  • Ling Hua (玲花): Darling, delicate flower.
  • Long Yun (龙韵): Charming dragon.
  • Mulan (木兰): legendary female warrior.
  • Zhen Bao (珍宝): valuable treasure.

The winning name will be announced on December 1, exactly 100 days after the cub was born against all odds.  

Video: baby panda at the Smithsonian zoo

Her mother Mei Xiang, a 25-year-old native of Sichuan, had been through five failed pregnancies. Her second most recent cub died in the autumn of lung and liver problems only six days after birth.

Mei Xiang's only other surviving offspring, Tai Shan, caused controversy in 2005, when the zoo did not allow "Butterstick", a pet name used by panda keepers, to be included in an internet poll to choose a name at the time. Voters could pick between Tai Shan, Hua Sheng, Sheng Hua, Long Shan and Qiang Qiang.

China declined a request by the Smithsonian to extend Tai Shan's stay in the US and he was ultimately taken to Sichuan where he now lives at a panda base

Last month, the Smithsonian's Panda Cam, deemed a "non-essential" service, was switched off for two weeks amid the US government shutdown following an impasse on the national budget in the US Congress. When the live camera feed was restored, the cub had almost doubled in weight and had grown to 60cm. Her previously closed eyes were almost fully open, the zoo said. 

Mother Mei Xiang and father Tian Tian will stay in Washington until 2015, according to an agreement with the Wolong conservancy. The cub is expected to "return" to China in 2017, when she reaches the age of four.