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Washington zoo panda named 'Little Miracle'

The votes are in and counted and the giant panda born at the Washington zoo three months ago is to be named Xiao Qi Ji, or "Little Miracle," the zoo in the US capital said on Monday.

Washington zoo panda named 'Little Miracle'
This November 18, 2020 handout photo obtained November 23, 2020 courtesy of the Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute, shows the 3-month-old giant panda cub. After five days of voting and just under 135,000 votes, the panda cub at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo is now named Xiao Qi Ji (SHIAU-chi-ji), which translates as “little miracle” in English. Handout/Smithsonian's National Zoo/AFP
Xiao Qi Ji was one of four Mandarin Chinese names put up for a public online vote and nearly 135,000 votes were received between November 16 and 20, the Smithsonian's National Zoo said.

"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 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.

More than 1.5 million people have tuned in to watch the baby panda and Mei Xiang on the zoo's Giant Panda Cam.

"Watching Xiao Qi Ji always puts a smile on my face," said Steve Monfort, director of the Smithsonian's National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute. 

"We are grateful that those who share in our joy have helped us pick the perfect name for our panda cub."

Mei Xiang has now given birth to four surviving offspring.

All cubs born at the zoo move to China when they are four years old under a partnership contract in which China owns the pandas.

The zoo's breeding agreement with China expires in December and it is currently discussing an extention with the Chinese authorities.

Fewer than 2,000 giant pandas still live in their natural habitat in China, while some 600 more live in zoos and breeding centers around the world, according to the zoo.

The Washington zoo closed its doors on Monday for an undetermined time because of the surge in Covid-19 cases in the United States.

Topics: Washington zoo , "Little Miracle" , Smithsonian's National Zoo , Giant Panda Cam
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