This morning at the San Diego Zoo, 107 days after his birth, the Zoo’s sixth giant panda cub was named. His name is Xiao Liwu, which means little gift. [Pronunciation is sshyaoww (falling then rising tone) lee (falling then rising tone) woo (falling tone)]
The San Diego Zoo follows the Chinese cultural tradition of naming a giant panda cub after it is 100 days old. The public had the opportunity to participate in the cub’s name in a two-part process. The Zoo took open suggestions for names via its website and received more than 7,000 submissions. Those were narrowed down to six names approved by the Zoo’s colleagues in China, and the public was encouraged to vote for their favorite. Nearly 35,000 votes were cast for the cub’s name. The winning name, Xiao Liwu, was submitted with the explanation “this cub is such a precious, little gift to our world.”
The Consulate-General of the People’s Republic of China in Los Angeles, Qiu Shaofang, was a featured speaker at the event, along with Ron Swaisgood, Ph.D., who is co-head of the Giant Panda Team for San Diego Zoo Global. Rick Gulley, president of the San Diego Zoo Global Board of Trustees, led the ceremony and helped unveil a large poster with the cub’s photo, his name in pinyin and in the Chinese characters and the pronunciation of the name. The ceremony also featured two musicians playing zithers and a troupe of lion dancers who performed for the guests.
The giant panda born on July 29 is the sixth cub born at the Zoo to Bai Yun, who is one of the oldest giant pandas known to give birth. Bai Yun, whose name means “white cloud,” gave birth to the first surviving giant panda born in the United States in 1999, followed by cubs in 2003, 2005, 2007, 2009 and 2012. Four of her offspring have moved to China, where some have contributed to the increase of the world’s panda population.
Giant pandas are on loan to the San Diego Zoo from the People’s Republic of China for conservation studies of this endangered species. As part of this long-term program, the San Diego Zoo is collaborating with the Chinese Academy of Science in studies of behavior, ecology, genetics and conservation of wild pandas living in the Foping Nature Reserve.
The San Diego Zoo Global Wildlife Conservancy is dedicated to bringing endangered species back from the brink of extinction. The work of the Conservancy includes onsite wildlife conservation efforts (representing both plants and animals) at the San Diego Zoo, San Diego Zoo Safari Park, San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research, and international field programs in more than 35 countries. In addition, San Diego Zoo Global manages the Anne and Kenneth Griffin Reptile Conservation Center, the Frozen ZooTM, Native Seed Gene Bank, the Keauhou and Maui Hawaii Endangered Bird Conservation Centers, the San Clemente Loggerhead Shrike Breeding Facility, the Cocha Cashu Biological Research Station, the Desert Tortoise Conservation Center, and a 800-acre biodiversity reserve adjacent to the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. The important conservation and science work of these entities is supported in part by The Foundation of the Zoological Society of San Diego.