Baby Panda at the National Zoo Gets a Name: Bao Bao

Bao Bao
Abby Wood, Smithsonian's National Zoo
Bao Bao

You could see the baby panda at the National Zoo on the panda cam Dec. 2, sleeping with her mom. She was probably humming in her sleep to an old Jim Croce song: “Like the singing bird, like the croaking toad, I’ve got a name. I’ve got a name.”

And so she does.

On her 100th day of her life, after more than 125,000 votes being cast to pick a name, the little female panda took on the name of Bao Bao, which means “treasure” or “precious” in English.

The name-giving was accomplished with all due ceremony—there was a video of First lady Michelle Obama and another from Peng Liyuan, China’s first lady. Obama gave a dual-language greeting: “Ni hao! And hello”,” she said. She said that the little cub “exemplified both the common bond between our nations and the brighter future of this magnificent species. That’s a lot for a little bear, but I think she’s up to it.”

Liyuan called the pandas “living fossils” that are rare, cuddly, smart and brave. 'They have captured the heart of the Chinese, Americans and, indeed, people all over the world,” she said.

Bao Bao, as we now must call her, is all of 100 days old and 11 pounds small, although she is growing at a rapid pace, accompanied by resounding yelps during physical checkups.

During the speech, Mei Xing, or mother Xing, cuddled with her cub. Bao Bao will be introduced to the public sometime in January. Bao Bao was selected over several others offered up as choices—Mulan (a female Chinese hero of legend and Disney fame), Ling Hua, Long Yum and Zhen Bao.

The Dec. 1 name ceremony, which included Chinese lion dancers and Chinese food, was officially settled with the unfurling of two scrolls with the names in Chinese and English.

Meantime, we have the official debutante debut of Bao Bao to look forward to. It promises to generated every bit as much enthusiasm, aw shucks awe and delight as that of her older brother Tai Shan, who made his December 2005 entrance carried by a zoo keeper, who set him on the floor where he marched in front of journalists who were overwhelmed in the presence of his royal cuteness and promptly turned into a superstar and commercial engine.

Look for more of the same in January, when the introduction of Bao Bao is slated to happen. Precious treasure indeed.

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Tue, 16 Sep 2014 05:25:32 -0400

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