Surprise Announcement! National Zoo's Panda Cub Is Named Bei Bei | NBC4 Washington

Surprise Announcement! National Zoo's Panda Cub Is Named Bei Bei

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    NEWSLETTERS

    In a break with tradition, the National Zoo revealed the new male panda cub's name in a special diplomatic ceremony. News4's Tracee Wilkins introduces us to Bei Bei. (Published Friday, Sept. 25, 2015)

    Surprise! The National Zoo's giant panda cub has a name!

    The month-old cub's name — Bei Bei — was unexpectedly revealed Friday during an event at the zoo. First Lady Michelle Obama revealed the cub's name herself.

    The name means "precious, treasure," according to the National Zoo in Washington, D.C.

    The zoo had said it would make an announcement about its pandas Friday. However, in the past, the zoo has named its panda cubs at 100 days of age in a nod to Chinese tradition. This cub is significantly younger, so the revelation of its name came as a surprise.

    China's First Lady Madame Peng Liyuan was also at the National Zoo for the announcement. Peng said she and Michelle Obama decided on Bei Bei together.

    Keepers at the China Conservation and Research Center for the Giant Panda had suggested the name, while keepers at the National Zoo submitted Ping Ping, which means "peaceful and calm." 

    "I expect and am confident that the giant pandas will continue to serve as an important link between our peoples...." Peng said through a translator.

    Before the big reveal, students from Washington Yu Ying Public Charter School in D.C. performed songs for the first ladies. Peng and Obama then unfurled a set of scrolls revealing the cub's name.

    Bei Bei and his twin brother were born to the zoo's female giant panda, Mei Xiang, Aug. 22. The smaller of the twins died four days later, but Bei Bei has grown and thrived. At four and a half weeks old on Monday, he weighed nearly three pounds -- more than either of his older siblings at a similar age.

    The zoo anticipates that the public will be able to see Bei Bei in person in early 2016.

    Mei Xiang and the zoo's male giant panda, Tian Tian, have two older surviving cubs: 2-year-old Bao Bao, who also lives at the zoo, and 10-year-old Tai Shan, who now lives at a breeding center in China.

    Tian Tian and and Bao Bao were in their outdoor yards when the announcement was made. They got to celebrate with "panda-friendly frozen cakes," the zoo said.

    Bao Bao's name was one of several options presented to the general public, which then voted online for the final choice. Her name -- which, just like her little brother's, means "precious" or treasure" -- was revealed when she turned 100 days old, during a ceremony at the zoo held Dec. 1, 2013.

    Tai Shan's name was also revealed when he was 100 days old. His name means "peaceful mountain."