- The Washington Times - Monday, October 17, 2005

Katie Stemberger said she had the perfect name for the National Zoo’s panda cub, after watching the woolly ball of fur on an Internet camera.

“Fuzzy,” said Katie, 6, while standing outside the zoo’s panda exhibit yesterday with her first-grade classmates from St. John the Evangelist School in Severna Park, Md. “He looks fuzzy.”

Her choice and those of her classmates — including “Pandy” and “Bubbles” — failed to make the cut when zoo officials yesterday named the male cub “Tai Shan,” which in Chinese means “peaceful mountain.”

Although the name has no obvious connection to the cub’s birthplace, residents are trying to make it work.

“The [zoo’s] on a mountain, and it’s a peaceful place to come,” offered Joanna Bonarriva of Springfield, who was at the zoo with her two toddlers.

“It’s the only place mommies get peace,” she said, jokingly.

Lynne McIntyre of Northwest had a slightly different perspective. “With everything going on in the world, I think it’s good to have a name that promotes peace,” she said.

The cub received his name exactly 100 days after his July 9 birthday, during a morning ceremony at the zoo that included performances by Chinese dancing troupes and martial artists.

Chinese custom calls for such a long wait because pandas born in captivity rarely live longer than a few days. The five previous giant panda cubs born at the zoo since 1983 died shortly after being born.

The name Tai Shan received 44 percent of the more than 200,000 votes cast in the zoo’s online naming poll, beating out such rivals as Hua Sheng, which means “China Washington,” and Qiang Qiang, which means “strong, powerful.”

Zoo officials said they were pleased with the winning name because it symbolizes the panda species’ struggle for survival.

“It’s very symbolic in Chinese culture of strength, peace and empowerment,” zoo spokesman John Gibbons said. “These are all things we hope this cub symbolizes for this species and for the future.”

Tai Shan was too young to attend the festivities yesterday, but officials hope he will make his first public appearance by mid-December.

Mr. Gibbons said the panda is now 13 pounds and 2 feet long and has become more playful recently — swatting at mother Mei Xiang’s nose and exploring the corners of his own den.

“In some respects, he’s a bit above the curve,” Mr. Gibbons said. “Looking at records of weight and size of where a panda cub should be at this stage, he’s a little bit bigger and a little bit heavier.”

The cub’s canine and incisor teeth also are coming in, and he has begun to master the use of his front legs.

“It’s his back legs he still has to learn how to use,” Mr. Gibbons said. “He wiggles around and gets around the cubbing den a bit.”

Mei Xiang and the cub’s father, Tian Tian, are on a 10-year loan from China. Tai Shan will be sent to China when he is 2.

After Mei Xiang and Tian Tian failed to mate successfully, scientists inseminated her March 11 with semen from Tian Tian.

Giant pandas are capable of becoming pregnant once each year, for only a day or two. Mei Xiang had failed three times since 2003 to produce a pregnancy through mating or artificial means.

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