Americans to name panda cubs at Atlanta zoo

Updated: 2013-10-10 10:51

By Amy He in New York (China Daily)

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Will it be "Lan Tian and Bi Shui"? Or how about, "Mei Lun and Mei Huan"?

On Oct 23, the first set of twin panda cubs born in the United State since 1987 will be named, and the naming rights are being given to the American public.

The staff at the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding in China selected five pairs of names for the male cubs, currently named "A" and "B". The American public will vote online for the pair of names they like best, using ABC TV's Good Morning America website.

Voting began Wednesday and ends at 11:59 pm EST on Oct 20, with the names announced on Oct 23. The end of October will mark the 100th day since the cubs were born in July after their mom Lun Lun was artificially inseminated in March.

The pairs of names are: Mei Lun and Mei Hua, meaning "Lun Lun's twin cubs born in the US"; Mei Lun and Mei Huan, meaning "something indescribably beautiful and magnificent"; Tian Lun and Tian Le, "a modified version of another Chinese idiom meaning "joy of family life" or "family happiness"; Lan Tian and Bi Shui, "blue sky and clear water"; Da Lan and Xiao Lan, meaning "bigger one" (a reference to the larger cub B) and "smaller one" (cub A).

As of late Wednesday afternoon , the Lan Tian and Bi Shui names led the poll with 24 percent of the votes, followed by 22 percent for Mei Lun and Mei Huan.

Cubs "A" and "B" are healthy and are starting to push themselves up and stand briefly on all four legs, said Megan Wilson, assistant curator of mammals at Zoo Atlanta. When the cubs are not with their mother, they are often together, she said.

Pandas from China are the property of the Chinese government and the black and white bears are on loan to foreign zoos for up to a decade and cubs must eventually be returned to China.

Births of twin panda cubs are rare. Pandas have a high mortality rate in the first few months after birth, so the chances of two cubs surviving are even lower. Mei Xiang of the National Zoo in Washington gave birth to two panda cubs in August, but one was a stillborn.

Caring for twin cubs is also hard for the mother, requiring a lot of energy just to produce enough milk to feed both cubs, Wilson said. "[The cubs] need to be positioned properly for nursing, so if you have to hold two cubs at one time, you can imagine that it's pretty challenging," she said.

Lun Lun is healthy and getting back in her usual routine, Wilson said. "She's active, she's interacting with the keepers," she said. "She's comfortable now leaving the cubs for short periods of time."

The last panda baby born at the Atlanta zoo was named "Po" after the main character in DreamWorks' Kung Fu Panda movies. The film studio sponsored that 100-day celebration event for the cub, and actor Jack Black - who is Po's voice in the movies - was present at the ceremony.

(China Daily USA 10/10/2013 page1)