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In this file photo provided by the San Diego Zoo, the zoo's giant panda cub, at the time 11 weeks old, takes his first steps during a veterinary exam Oct. 18, 2012 in San Diego. In a ceremony Tuesday, the cub was dubbed Xiao Liwu (shee-ow lee-woo), which means Little Gift in English.

Ken Bohn, ASSOCIATED PRESS - AP

In this Sept. 20,2012 file photo provided by the San Diego Zoo, the panda cub at the San Diego Zoo is shown during his fifth veterinary exam. The San Diego Zoo has announced that its 15-week-old giant panda has been named Xiao Liwu, which means Little Gift. The name was selected by the public, which voted on the zoo's website.

Tammy Spratt, ASSOCIATED PRESS - AP

In this photo provided by the San Diego Zoo, keeper Liz Simmons carries out the San Diego Zoo's youngest giant panda for his weekly exam, Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2012, in San Diego. Veterinary staff took all the usual weights and measurement and the cub continues to get bigger and heavier. (AP Photo/San Diego Zoo, Ken Bohn)

Ken Bohn, ASSOCIATED PRESS - AP

100 days after birth, San Diego panda gets name

  • Associated Press
  • November 13, 2012 - 6:33 PM

SAN DIEGO - There is a new little gift at the San Diego Zoo that's going to get very big.

The zoo's youngest giant panda was officially named Xiao Liwu (ZHEE'-ow LEE'-woo), Chinese for "little gift," at a ceremony Tuesday. He is on the small side, but is strong and cooperative, said Dr. Ron Swaisgood, a member of the zoo's panda team.

The cub was born on July 29 and was named 100 days after its birth, according to Chinese zoo tradition. Officials said the cub weighs 9.2 pounds and stretches more than 23 inches long from nose to tail.

Zoo officials got 7,000 suggested names, chose their top six and put them up for a vote. More than 35,000 zoo visitors voted on names that meant Little Gift, Miracle, Raindrop, Big Ocean or Big Sea, Brave Son and Water Dragon.

Xiao Liwu's mother is Bai Yun (bye-yuhn) which means White Cloud and father Gao Gao (gow-gow), which means Tall Tall. The cub is Bai Yun's sixth. She turned 21 in July, making her the oldest giant panda known to give birth.

Through participation in a panda exchange breeding program with China, researchers "have gone from zero to 100 overnight in understanding the species," Swaisgood said. That's very beneficial for conservation because "it's hard to conserve what we do not understand."

He called the panda the world's "best loved species."

Before the program, the future of the species was bleak, he said, because the death rate exceeded the birth rate. But in 2010, "we met the 200 individuals needed to preserve the genetic diversity of the species," Swaisgood said to applause from the audience.

Swaisgood described efforts by scientists in China to track wild pandas. A wild panda will leave about 50 droppings a day, he said, and scientists can learn a lot from that, including information about DNA, hormones and diet.

Swaisgood said those taking part in the breeding program have done a good job.

"There is a feeling of hope that things are turning around for the species and it has a brighter future than it did 20 years ago," he said.

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