Editor’s Note, November 23, 2020: After five days of voting, the Smithsonian’s National Zoo has announced its three-month-old panda cub’s official name: Xiao Qi Ji (pronounced SHIAU-chi-ji), or “little miracle.” Per a statement, members of the public cast just under 135,000 votes, choosing Xiao Qi Ji over Fu Zai, Xing Fu and Zai Zai. Read more about the plump prince—and his new name—below.
It’s time for the new giant panda cub at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo to have a name, and now the public can help decide on one.
Anyone can vote on their favorite name for the 9.2-pound baby, a male, on the Zoo’s website from November 16 through November 20 (maximum one vote per day). The winning name will be announced November 23.
The 3-month-old cub entered the world on August 21 at the David M. Rubenstein Family Giant Panda Habitat. The birth was live streamed to the nation onh the Zoo’s Giant Panda Cam, and since then more than 1 million viewers have been checking in on his steady growth.
Giant pandas, an internationally recognized symbol of wildlife conservation and hope, went from “endangered” status to “vulnerable” status in 2016 after more than 25 years on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s endangered species list. While the species’s recovery has been an example of the success of conservation efforts, only about 1,800 pandas exist in the wild according to the most recent survey in 2015.
The cub’s birth during the Covid-19 pandemic brought a much-needed cause for celebration, and the possible names reflect his arrival during these extraordinary times. The names to be selected from are:
Fu Zai (福仔), pronounced fu-tzai, meaning prosperous boy; Xiao Qi ji (小奇迹), shiau-chi-ji, little miracle; Xing Fu (幸福) , shing-fu, happy and prosperous; and Zai Zai (仔仔), tzai-tzai, a traditional Chinese nickname for a boy.
Mother Mei Xiang, age 22, is the oldest giant panda in the United States to give birth. Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute reproductive scientists and Zoo veterinarians artificially inseminated Mei Xiang on March 22 using frozen semen collected from the Zoo’s 23-year-old male Tian Tian. The cub’s birth marks the first time a zoo in the United States has induced a successful pregnancy and birth via artificial insemination with only frozen semen.
Mei Xiang has given birth to three surviving offspring prior: Tai Shan, Bao Bao and Bei Bei, all of whom have moved to China as part of the Zoo’s cooperative breeding agreement with the China Wildlife Conservation Association, which requires all cubs born at the Zoo move to China when they are 4 years old. The Zoo will continue to provide updates on the cub on its website, on social media using the hashtags #PandaStory and #PandaCubdates and in the Giant Panda e-newsletter.
The National Zoo in Washington, D.C. is open but visitors must obtain free timed-entry tickets ahead of their arrival. The Giant Panda Habitat, located on the Asia Trail, remains closed to provide quiet solitude for the mother and her new cub.
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