What's in a name? Quite a lot for 100-day-old cub

By Huang Zhiling (China Daily)
Updated: 2006-12-16 06:59

Mei Lan, the only panda born outside China this year, was named on Friday in a traditional Chinese ceremony at Zoo Atlanta in the United States.

More than 53,000 people cast votes on ajc.com, the website of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution newspaper, to decide the panda's name, which was announced by Zhang Zhihe, head of the Chengdu Giant Panda Breeding Research Base.

Zhang said that votes were cast by netizens from across the globe, choosing from a shortlist of 10 names.

The 10 names ranged from the celestial (Ming Xing, or Bright Star) to the agricultural (Xiao Tao, or Little Peach). Some referred to the cub's Atlanta roots for example, Mei Lan, which means Atlanta Beauty; and Chang Jiang (Yangtze River), which reminds panda fans that the cub is only in Atlanta as a guest and will return to her homeland one day.

Born on September 6, Mei Lan is the daughter of mother Lun Lun and father Yang Yang from the Chengdu Giant Panda Breeding Research Base. They arrived at Zoo Atlanta in 1999 on a 10-year loan from the Chinese Government.

Soon after Mei Lan's birth, Zoo Atlanta decided to host a naming ceremony in line with Chinese tradition when she was 100 days old.

"Customs vary from region to region in a country as large as China, but the 100th day tends to be the milestone that is most often celebrated," said Kelly.

According to Chinese tradition, the 100th day has particular significance, given the high infant mortality rate in the past. A baby's survival to the 100th day was therefore viewed as a cause for celebration and an indication of its future health.

"Historically, the same was true for panda cubs, which often didn't survive infancy," said Denis Kelly, head of Zoo Atlanta.

Mei Lan weighed about 113 grams and was the size of a human hand when she was born. On Thursday, Mei Lan underwent a check-up conducted by Zhang and Maria Crane, Zoo Atlanta's senior veterinarian, which found that she weighed 5.4 kilograms and was about 67 centimetres long.

During the check-up, Mei Lan rose and took a few tentative steps a first for the youngster.

"She wobbled like a drunk in a storm, but there was no mistaking her intentions. She was ready to move on her own, nearly in time for her naming ceremony," said Crane.

(China Daily 12/16/2006 page1)

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