Panda gets a name: Tai Shan

10-17-05 - The National Zoo's giant panda cub, known to its keepers simply as "the Cub" since his birth 100 days ago, finally has a name: Tai Shan, which means "peaceful mountain."

The name, one of five proposed for the little cub, received 44 percent of the estimated 200,000 votes cast on the zoo's Web site, zoo officials said Monday.

The little panda went without a name for its first hundred days in observance of a Chinese custom. It's rare for pandas born in captivity to live more than a few days, and keeping the animals nameless is seen as a way to trick fate into letting them survive.

The cub wasn't present at his naming ceremony. Zoo officials say he probably won't be making his public debut until sometime in December, since his mother is still quite protective of him.

Panda fans celebrated the 100-day milestone at a zoo ceremony featuring performances by Chinese dance troops and martial artists. Officials from China delivered speeches toasting the fuzzy little cub.

Tai Shan, pronounced "tie-SHON," spent the morning with his mother, Mei Xiang, in a den that's still off limits to zoo visitors. His handlers are slowly introducing him to the exhibit enclosure where he's expected to go on public view within the next couple months.

The male cub, born July 9, is the first giant panda born at the National Zoo to survive more than a few weeks. Mei Xiang and the father, Tian Tian, are on a 10-year loan from China. The cub will be sent to China when it is 2.

The panda cub recently took its first steps and zoo examiners say its teeth have started coming in. They said the cub has also begun to exhibit signs that he's ready to play. On Sunday, Mei Xiang was resting on her platform when the cub stretched up and touched his nose to hers, then swatted her with his paw. When the mother came down from the platform and picked him up, he squirmed and swatted her again.

The China Wildlife Conservation Association and zoo officials had selected five names from which voters could choose. The others were: Hua Sheng, which means "China Washington" and "magnificent;" Sheng Hua, which means "Washington China" and "magnificent;" Long Shan, which means "dragon mountain;" and Qiang Qiang, which means "strong, powerful."

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On the Net:

National Zoo panda naming contest: http://www.fonz.org/cubname.htm


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