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

Updated: 2013-12-03 08:15
By Agencies in Washington and Beijing ( China Daily)

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

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.

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-day-old 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."

AP-Xinhua-China Daily

Zhang Fan contributed to this story.

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