Baby Panda Named at San Diego Zoo

Ken Bohn/San Diego Zoo

The San Diego Zoo's giant panda habitat welcomed an addition back in July, but the now 4-week-old cub remained without a name until now.

Today the male cub got a name: Xiao Liwu, meaning "little gift."

Going so long without naming newborns is common in the giant panda world, where, according to Chinese tradition, the cuddly black-and-white cubs aren't named until they've made it past the 100 day mark alive and well.

That day was Nov. 4 for Xiao Liwu, but zoo officials have since had to narrow 7,000 names submitted by the public to a just few finalists.

"Participants had to submit names in pinyin and give the meaning in English," Jenny Mehlow, part of the zoo's public relations team, told, "Then, after weeding out the silly ones, like 'Oreo,' we chose six finalists."

In addition to Xiao Liwu, those finalists were: Qi Ji, which means "miracle'"; Yu Di, which means "raindrop"; Da Hai, which means "big ocean" or "big sea"; Yong Er, which means "brave son"; and Shui Long, which means "water dragon."

Through the zoo's website, panda fans again got to cast their votes, 35,000 of them, for which of the names they liked most.

As of Tuesday morning, the people had spoken, and Xiao Liwu's name was unveiled at the San Diego zoo and live streamed to thousands of viewers on the web.

San Diego's zoo is one of only four in the United States that keep the endangered species. The giant pandas are loaned to the U.S. from China, where, because of habitat encroachment by humans,. a mere 1,600 pandas are believed to remain in the wild.

According to Mehlow, helping raise pandas like Xiao Liwu allows zoos to better understand the rare animal's behavior, ecology, genetics and reproduction.

"This is our sixth cub at the San Diego zoo," Mehlow said, "and we still have much more to learn about this species."