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Zoo Atlanta's Giant Panda Cub Gets Name Today

The wait is almost over. Zoo Atlanta's newest giant panda cub will soon have a name to go with his cute face.
/ Source: OurAmazingPlanet

The wait is almost over. Zoo Atlanta's newest giant panda cub will soon have a name to go with his cute face.

Following Chinese tradition, panda cubs are not named until they have been alive for 100 days. Zoo Atlanta's newest cub, a boy, was born Nov. 3, 2010, and will be named today (Feb. 15) in a ceremony at Zoo Atlanta. He was the only giant panda born in the United States in 2010.

The 100-day tradition began in ancient China with human babies. Because the infants were so fragile, parents often waited 100 days to make sure they would survive before naming them. That tradition was carried over to giant panda cubs because their early survival was uncertain as well. They are tiny at birth and heavily dependent on the mothers, said Rebecca Snyder, the curator of mammals at Zoo Atlanta.

The newborn cub weighed just over 11 ounces (311 grams) at his first exam in November. Today he's a healthy 11 pounds (5 kilograms), Snyder said.

This cub is the third by Zoo Atlanta's giant panda female, Lun Lun. Her first cub, Mei Lan, a female, is now 5 years old and living in China. Lun Lun's second cub, Xi Lan, is still in Atlanta, where he turned 2 years old in August 2010.

The names of Zoo Atlanta's past cubs were chosen by a contest. Mei Lan is intended to mean "Atlanta beauty" and Xi Lan is intended to mean "Atlanta's joy."

This time the zoo has taken a more secretive approach. They brought in an as-yet-unidentified partner to help with the naming and create a splash at tomorrow's ceremony.

"We're pretty excited about what that means for panda conservation and the need to save pandas," Snyder told OurAmazingPlanet.

The panda cub's name will be revealed during a morning ceremony. The cub will not be present, however. He is still learning to walk behind the scenes. Zoo officials hope he will be ready in the spring to hear the public call his name.

Reach OurAmazingPlanet staff writer Brett Israel at Follow him on Twitter @btisrael.