San Diego Zoo’s giant panda cub gets a name


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The suspense is over: In a ceremony Tuesday, San Diego Zoo officials announced the recently selected name of the giant panda cub born there in August. (In accordance with Chinese tradition, the cub couldn’t be officially named until he was 100 days old.)

The zoo held a contest to allow members of the public to submit name suggestions for the cub, a healthy male born to mother Bai Yun and father Gao Gao. Once the submission period closed Oct. 19, zoo staff members selected their five favorite names from more than 6,000 offered by panda fans, which then had to be approved by the Chinese Wildlife Conservation Assn.


That done, the zoo turned once again to the public to decide on the cub’s name, allowing visitors to its website and Facebook fan page to cast their votes for one of the five finalists: Xiao Long (‘Little Dragon’), Xiong Wei (‘Extraordinary Bear’), Fu Sheng (‘Blissful San Diego’), Yong Xiang (‘Eternally Blessed’) and Yun Zi (‘Son of Cloud’).

According to the zoo, nearly 18,000 votes were received during the voting period, and the winning name received 28% of the vote. That name is...

The winning name, Yun Zi, is significant because it honors mother panda Bai Yun (her name translates to ‘White Cloud’). According to Yadira Galindo, a senior public relations representative for the zoo, the voting nearly went another way, with 26% of voters selecting Xiao Long (‘Little Dragon’) instead. Xiong Wei (‘Extraordinary Bear’) received 20% of the vote.

Zoo staff describe Bai Yun as an excellent mother; she’s given birth to four older cubs (Hua Mei, Mei Sheng, Su Lin and Zhen Zhen) since arriving at the zoo as part of a scientific exchange with China in 1996. The oldest of Bai Yun’s cubs, Hua Mei, was the first giant panda born in North America to survive to adulthood. Since 2004, she’s resided at her mother’s birthplace, the Wolong Giant Panda Research Center, where she’s given birth to six cubs — three sets of twins, a rarity for pandas.

Zoo officials and a Chinese diplomat announced late last year that China’s loan of Bai Yun and Gao Gao to the San Diego Zoo would be extended for an additional five years.

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-- Lindsay Barnett

Top photo: Yun Zi during a regular veterinary checkup Tuesday. Credit: Ken Bohn / Associated Press