Meet Xiao Qi Ji: National Zoo names 3-month-old panda cub

As of Nov. 14, National Zoo’s three-month-old giant panda cub could nearly walk, and his teeth were beginning to come in. (Courtesy National Zoo)

Say hello to Xiao Qi Ji: The newest cuddly member of the National Zoo’s panda family.

The Smithsonian’s National Zoo held a naming contest for the male panda cub in time for its three-month birthday. Voters were asked to choose between four names selected by the cub’s American zookeepers and Chinese partners.

Xiao Qi Ji’s name translates as “little miracle” in Mandarin Chinese. Also in consideration were: Fu Zai 福仔 (prosperous boy), Xing Fu 幸福 (happy and prosperous) and Zai Zai 仔仔 (a traditional Chinese nickname for a boy).

Over 135,000 votes were cast online from Nov. 16 to Nov. 20. All four options reflected the extraordinary circumstances of Xiao Qi Ji’s birth during the COVID-19 pandemic, which saw the zoo close to the public for much of the year.

“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 news release. “His name reflects the extraordinary circumstances under which he was born and celebrates the collaboration between colleagues who strive to conserve this species.”

Xiao Qi ji was born on Aug. 21, but they sure grow up fast — as of Nov. 9 he weighed 9.2 pounds and stood 21.3 inches tall.

Under an agreement with the China Wildlife Conservation Association, all cubs born at the National Zoo are transferred to mainland China when they are 4 years old. The zoo said it is discussing arrangements beyond early December, when its current cooperative breeding agreement is set to expire.

While rising coronavirus cases recently forced the zoo to close its doors again, its two Giant Panda Cams are still available online for anyone to watch parents Mei Xiang and Tian Tian interact with their new cub.

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