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Mrs. Obama, Chinese counterpart help give panda cub its name: Bei Bei

By Darlene Superville



Washington’s newest giant panda cub is nameless no more. Call him Bei Bei.

First lady Michelle Obama and her Chinese counterpart, Peng Liyuan, revealed the name Friday during a tour of the panda house at Smithsonian’s National Zoo.

Bei Bei means “precious treasure” and is pronounced “bay bay.” It complements his 2-year-old sister’s name, Bao Bao.

The first ladies chose the name and untied a pair of yellow scrolls to reveal it in English and Mandarin Chinese. Before the announcement, they watched Bei Bei get a medical checkup.

The cub, who turns 5 weeks old on Saturday and now weighs about 3 pounds, is the survivor of a pair of twins born Aug. 22 to Mei Xiang. The second cub died four days after its birth.

With the new cub, the zoo has four pandas for the first time, including Tian Tian, the father of Bao Bao and Bei Bei.

Bei Bei is the name that was submitted by panda keepers at a partner conservation centre in Wolong, China.

“Michelle once said that the giant panda exemplifies the common bond between China and the United States,” Peng said through an interpreter. “That’s a lot of responsibility for a cute animal like giant pandas.”

China gave a pair of giant pandas to the National Zoo in 1972 following President Richard Nixon’s groundbreaking visit to the Asian country. The bears, Ling-Ling and Hsing-Hsing, lived out their lives at the zoo. The current pair of adult pandas, Mei Xiang and Tian Tian, came to the zoo in 2000.

Another of the couple’s surviving cubs, Tai Shan, now lives in China.


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