National Zoo Invites Panda Enthusiasts to Help Dub the Cub

The male giant panda cub at the Smithsonian's National Zoo received its third health exam on Thursday, Aug. 18.
Lisa Stevens, left, Dr. Suzan Murray and Dr. Sharon Deem inspect the panda cub during its third examination. (Laurie Perry - Smithsonian's National Zoo)
By Karlyn Barker
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, August 25, 2005

The panda-adoring public will get to name the National Zoo's giant panda cub and vie for a chance to win a special tour of the Panda House in a nationwide contest announced yesterday by Friends of the National Zoo.

The name of the male cub, born July 9, has come down to five choices -- and panda fans have until Sept. 30 to vote for their favorite via the zoo's Web site.

FONZ, the nonprofit support organization for the zoo, said it also is holding a contest for youngsters with a knack for fundraising, and those winners will receive a special visit to see the new cub, too.

A FONZ spokesman said the five panda names were selected by the China Wildlife Conservation Association and the zoo. It's the first time that the public in this country and abroad has been given an opportunity to name a giant panda, one of the world's most endangered animals.

The choices, with pronunciations supplied by FONZ:

· Hua Sheng (hwah SHUNG), which means "China Washington" and "magnificent."

· Sheng Hua (SHUNG hwah), which means "Washington China" and "magnificent."

· Tai Shan (tie SHON), which means "peaceful mountain."

· Long Shan (lohng SHON), which means "dragon mountain."

· Qiang Qiang (chee-ONG chee-ONG), which means "strong, powerful."

FONZ spokesman Matt Olear said the China group suggested the first two names to emphasize the collaborative effort between China and Washington to protect and increase the giant panda population, now numbered at about 1,600 in the wild. The spelling and pronunciation of Sheng , the Chinese word for "Washington," is "close enough" to that of the Chinese word for "magnificent," according to a zoo consultant.

The zoo's Panda House staff, Olear said, picked the other names, in part to stress the natural history of the species.

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