- The Washington Times - Monday, November 16, 2020

Shakespeare once asked, “What’s in a name?” But the Bard never had to consider how that might apply to a 9-pound, black-and-white ball of fur from China.

Thankfully, the general public gets to do just that: The National Zoo is asking the public to help name its giant panda cub.

Born Aug. 21, the male cub will be 100 days old on Monday when it will receive its official name, according to tradition.

The public can vote for four possible Chinese names, and the name that receives the most votes will be bestowed on the cub.

The possible names “reflect the extraordinary circumstances under which this cub was born” and celebrate the efforts made to conserve the giant panda species, the National Zoo said.

The four names are:

⦁ Fu Zai [pronounced “FOO tzi”], which means “prosperous boy.”

⦁ Xiao Qi ji [pronounced “SHEOW chee jee”], which means “little miracle.”

⦁ Xing Fu [pronounced “SHING foo”], which means “happy and prosperous.”

⦁ Zai Zai [pronounced “TZI TZI”], which is a traditional nickname for a boy.

Members of the public can select their favorite name on the zoo’s website until Friday and are limited to one vote per day.

“Giant pandas are an international symbol of endangered wildlife and hope, and the birth of this cub offered the world a much-needed moment of joy amidst the COVID-19 pandemic,” the zoo said in a statement.

Panda mom Mei Xiang [pronounced “may SHONG”] has begun moving her cub out of their small den and into their large indoor enclosure more often, zoo officials said. She also has been leaving the cub on his own more frequently, spending more time outside eating while he rests in the den.

The cub’s efforts to crawl and walk are “progressing nicely,” and he can get three legs underneath himself momentarily when he tries to stand, zoo officials said. He should be walking soon.

During a checkup earlier this month, the giant panda cub measured 21.2 inches from the tip of his nose to the base of his tail and weighed in at 9.2 pounds. His teeth also are starting to come in.

Cubs typically start nibbling on solid foods around 6 months old, although Mei Xiang’s milk will remain the staple of her son’s diet until he is about 18 months old.

Male giant pandas usually weigh about 250 pounds when fully grown and reach sexual maturity between 4 and 8 years old.

Mei Xiang became the oldest giant panda in the U.S. to give birth in August, when she delivered the unnamed male cub at the age of 22. There are about a dozen giant pandas in the United States, all of them on loan from the government of China.

Reproductive scientists and zoo veterinarians had artificially inseminated Mei Xiang on March 22 with frozen semen from Tian Tian [ pronounced “t-YEN t-YEN”], a 23-year-old giant panda. Ultrasounds on Aug. 14 and 17 confirmed the presence of a fetus.

The birth of Mei Xiang’s cub marks the first time a U.S. zoo has had a successful pregnancy via artificial insemination using only frozen semen.

Mei Xiang previously gave birth to three other surviving offspring: Tai Shan [pronounced “tie SHON”] in July 2005, Bao Bao [pronounced “BOW BOW”] in August 2013, and Bei Bei [pronounced “BAY BAY”] in August 2015.

All of the cubs were moved to China at 4 years old as part of a cooperative breeding agreement with the China Wildlife Conservation Association, which expires in December. The zoo is currently in talks with its colleagues in China about a future arrangement.

The giant panda house at the National Zoo currently is closed to the public to provide peace and quiet for Mei Xiang and her cub. The Asia Trail, which includes the giant panda viewing, also is temporarily closed to visitors for repaving of walkways.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the National Zoo has adjusted its hours, limited the number of visitors and requires timed entry passes, among other precautions.

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