‘Little Miracle’: Panda cub at DC National Zoo named Xiao Qi Ji

Male panda was named after an online poll saw more than 130k votes cast for the Mandarin name, which means ‘little miracle’.

This handout photo released by the Smithsonian's National Zoo shows Xiao Qi Ji, then unnamed, after his August 21 birth at the zoo [Handout: Roshan Patel/Smithsonian’s National Zoo via AP Photo]

More than three months after his birth, the National Zoo’s new panda cub finally has a name.

Officials at the Smithsonian, which runs the zoo, announced Monday morning that the cub born on August 21 would be named Xiao Qi Ji, which is Mandarin Chinese for “little miracle”.

The choice was the result of a five-day online poll that drew nearly 135,000 voters to choose between different Mandarin Chinese names. In a nod to Chinese tradition, the name was not chosen until 100 days after the birth.

Monday’s announcement came on the day the zoo shut its doors to the public for the second time this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Smithsonian officials announced last week that the zoo and the seven museums that had been operating at limited capacity would all shut down indefinitely as the virus continues to spike locally and around the country.

“Giant pandas are an international symbol of endangered wildlife and hope, and Xiao Qi Ji’s birth offered the world a much-needed moment of joy amidst the Covid-19 pandemic,” the zoo said in a statement.

The Smithsonian first shut down all its facilities in mid-March. But the zoo reopened on July 24 and other museums gradually reopened other museums with timed entry passes to keep the crowds low.

Even if the zoo were open, the indoor panda house would have remained closed to the public, making the zoo’s popular panda-cam, the only way to view the baby bear, who doctors say is up to 4.7kg (10.4lbs) and starting to crawl.

The male panda was born on August 21 to Mei Xiang, 22, the second-oldest documented giant panda in the world to give birth.

She was artificially inseminated in March with frozen semen from Tian Tian, 23

The reproductive rate for pandas, which carry a reputation for being difficult to breed in captivity, is about one cub every two years, according to the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF).

But “long-term studies have shown that wild panda populations can have reproductive rates comparable to some American black bear populations, which are thriving,” the WWF said on its website.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies