San Diego Zoo announces panda name

The San Diego Zoo has announced that its 15-week-old giant panda has been named Xiao Liwu, which means Little Gift. The name was selected by the public, which voted on the zoo's website.

By Chinese tradition, giant pandas are not named until they have been alive 100 days. The announcement was made at 10 a.m. at the zoo's Hunte Amphitheater.

The finalists, culled from more than 7,000 name suggestions received in September, were: — Qi Ji, which means Miracle; — Yu Di, which means Raindrop; — Da Hai, which means Big Ocean or Big Sea; — Xiao Liwu, which means Little Gift; — Yong Er, which means Brave Son; and — Shui Long, which means Water Dragon.

Nearly 35,000 visitors to the zoo's website late last month voted to choose a name.

The cub was born on July 29 to mother Bai Yun, which means “white cloud,” and father Gao Gao, which means “big big.” He is Bai Yun's sixth cub and her fifth with Gao Gao. The pair mated in March, zoo officials said.

Bai Yun was nearly 21 years old when she delivered her newest cub, making her the oldest giant panda known to give birth.

Bai Yun's other offsprings are Yun Zi, meaning “son of cloud;” Zhen Zhen, or “precious;” Su Lin, or “a little bit of something very cute;” Mei Sheng, or “born in the USA or beautiful life;” and Hua Mei, or “China USA.”

Doug Myers, executive director of the San Diego Zoo, and Ron Swaisgood, who is the co-head of the giant panda team, was expected to make remarks at today's naming ceremony. Representatives from China were also scheduled to attend.

The giant pandas at the zoo are on loan from the Chinese government, which has the option of calling the black-and-white bears back to their native country after they reach the age of 3. Only the newest cub and Yun Zi, who turned 3 in August, remain at the San Diego Zoo today.

The local zoo is one of four in the U.S. that participate in the loan program. For a hefty fee to China, these zoos get to study the critically endangered species up close and help with breeding. At the same time, the pandas make them highly popular attractions.

Only around 1,600 pandas are believed to be left in the wild in China, in part because of deforestation and the expansion of farming. The bamboo- eating panda has lost much of its forest habitat in the mountainous areas of southwest China to roads and railroads, according to the nonprofit World Wildlife Fund.

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