Michelle Obama Helps Name National Zoo’s Newest Panda Cub Bei Bei
What’s black and white and winning the hearts of two first ladies of leading superpowers?
The National Zoo’s month-old panda cub was named Bei Bei (pronounced “bay bay”) at a ceremony in Washington, D.C., on Friday, with First Lady Michelle Obama of the U.S. and First Lady Peng Liyuan of China presiding over the event, The Washington Post reports.
The male fuzzball—whose name means “precious treasure”—was seen via Panda Cam in the background and has grown to weight about three pounds since he was born Aug. 22, along with another cub that did not survive its first week. Animal rights advocates have said that mishandling of the tiny cub led to the death.
It’s no coincidence that the World Wildlife Fund’s logo has featured a giant panda since the organization’s creation in 1961. The WWF says the panda is the rarest member of the bear family, and there were around 1,864 left in the wild in February—which reflects an estimated 17 percent increase since 2003.
Pandas are a huge draw for zoo visitors, with one zoo in Scotland reporting that its income tripled to $15 million the year after a pair of pandas arrived.
Bei Bei’s eyes aren’t open yet, and he can only scoot around using his front legs. He likely won’t be on public view until 2016. When he turns four he will be returned to China—all the zoo’s pandas are on lease.
While Bei Bei’s name was being announced, President Barack Obama and China’s President Xi Jinping were meeting to discuss cyber spying, emissions reduction, and other matters of concern for the world’s two biggest economies.