Panda cub’s wait ends: Her name is Bao Bao

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - WORLD - By AGEN­CIES in Wash­ing­ton and Bei­jing

The most pop­u­lar gi­ant panda in the his­tory of Sino-US re­la­tions has fi­nally been given a name.

On Sun­day, the Smith­so­nian’s Na­tional Zoo in Wash­ing­ton named the 100- day­old fe­male cub Bao Bao af­ter re­ceiv­ing more than 123,000 online votes from the pub­lic.

Bao Bao, which means “trea­sure” or “pre­cious” in Chi­nese, is one of five Chi­nese names of­fered in the pub­lic online vote last month.

In a video mes­sage played at a cer­e­mony staged by the zoo, China’s first lady Peng Liyuan said pan­das are China’s na­tional trea­sure and are loved by Chi­nese and US cit­i­zens and peo­ple all over the world.

“Mei Xiang’s cubs are more than just achieve­ments of the joint ef­forts of Chi­nese and Amer­i­can sci­en­tists, they also sym­bol­ize the lov­ing care of the Chi­nese and Amer­i­can peo­ple and the friend­ship be­tween them,” Peng said in Chi­nese, re­fer­ring to the cub’s mother.

She re­called “a touch­ing mo­ment” on Jan 30, 2010 when many US cit­i­zens gath­ered at the na­tional zoo to see Mei Xiang’s first cub, Tai Shan, be­fore he de­parted for China.

“To­day’s 100- day celebration for Mei Xiang’s cub is another tes­ta­ment to the close­ness the Chi­nese and Amer­i­cans feel at heart, of the dream we share, of our care and love for the planet we call home and of our pur­suit of a bet­ter life,” she said.

US first lady Michelle Obama also sent a video mes­sage in which she credited for­mer first lady Pat Nixon with help­ing to “jump-start panda diplo­macy” af­ter she ad­mired pan­das dur­ing then-pres­i­dent Richard Nixon’s his­toric visit to China in 1972.

“Af­ter decades of close col­lab­o­ra­tion with our Chi­nese part­ners, th­ese re­mark­able an­i­mals stand as a sym­bol of the grow­ing con­nec­tions be­tween our two coun­tries,’’ Obama said.

Mei Xiang has cared for her cub in her den since she was born on Aug 23.

Bao Bao will be un­veiled to the pub­lic in early 2014, but be­fore this, vet­eri­nar­i­ans want to give her a fi­nal vac­ci­na­tion this week, so that both mother and cub can ven­ture out as early as the sec­ond week of De­cem­ber, zoo cu­ra­tor Brandie Smith said.

Bao Bao is only the sec­ond sur­viv­ing cub born at the na­tional zoo since the first pan­das ar­rived in 1972. The first sur­viv­ing cub, a male named Tai Shan, was also born to Mei Xiang in 2005 and was re­turned to China in 2010 for breed­ing. Tian Tian is the fa­ther of both cubs.

Last year, Mei Xiang gave birth to a fe­male cub in Septem­ber, but it died a week later from liver fail­ure caused by lung prob­lems.

Gi­ant pan­das are con­sid­ered crit­i­cally en­dan­gered in the wild, and breed­ing them in cap­tiv­ity has proved dif­fi­cult, es­pe­cially in Wash­ing­ton. The new birth has given zoo sci­en­tists re­newed con­fi­dence in the Wash­ing­ton pan­das’ abil­ity to re­pro­duce.

An online clip showed Bao Bao rush­ing around, al­though she can’t yet raise her hind legs to crawl, cu­ra­tors said. Overnight she also started tak­ing bam­boo to her mouth, with her teeth be­gin­ning to come through.

“She can scoot over to the open­ing of her den and she kind of peeks out, but she hasn’t got­ten over the thresh­old yet,” Smith said.

“We let Mei Xiang take her cub where she needs to take it. Mei Xiang is def­i­nitely be­com­ing more ad­ven­tur­ous with her, and has given us some in­di­ca­tion she’s ready to start tak­ing her cub out­side as soon as we let her.” Zhang Fan con­trib­uted to this story.

China’s first lady Peng Liyuan con­grat­u­lates the Smith­so­nian’s Na­tional Zoo on the nam­ing of Bao Bao in a video mes­sage at a cer­e­mony mark­ing 100 days af­ter the fe­male panda cub’s birth. Peng praised pan­das as China’s “na­tional trea­sure”, loved by peo­ple all over the world.

ABBY WOOD / SMITH­SO­NIAN’S NA­TIONAL ZOO VIA REUTERS

The name of the gi­ant panda at the Smith­so­nian’s Na­tional Zoo was re­vealed on Sun­day in a cer­e­mony cel­e­brat­ing the cub’s first 100 days. His name is Bao Bao. Photo was taken on Oct 29.

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