WASHINGTON (ABC7) — On Monday morning, the long-awaited moment arrived. The Smithsonian's National Zoo announced the panda cub's new name: Xiao Qi Ji.
The announcement comes on the same day the National Zoo and several Smithsonian museums will once again close indefinitely due to a recent surge in COVID-19 cases in the DMV region.
It was one of four Mandarin Chinese names that were offered for a public online vote from Nov. 16 to Nov. 20 on the Zoo's website. 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.
His name reflects the extraordinary circumstances under which he was born and celebrates the collaboration between colleagues who strive to conserve this species.
"Connecting people around the world with nature, whether in person or in this virtual setting, is a cornerstone of our mission to conserve and protect giant pandas for future generations," said Steve Monfort, John and Adrienne Mars Director of the Smithsonian's National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute.
"Like many who have followed our giant panda cub since his birth last summer, I tune in to the Giant Panda Cam from time to time. Watching Xiao Qi Ji always puts a smile on my face. We are grateful that those who share in our joy have helped us pick the perfect name for our panda cub."
Xiao Qi Ji was born at the David M. Rubenstein Family Giant Panda Habitat on Aug. 21, at 6:35 p.m. to mother Mei Xiang and father Tian Tian. His birth was streamed live on the Zoo's Giant Panda Cam, and since then more than 1.5 million virtual visitors have tuned in to watch him grow. Giant panda fans can see Xiao Qi Ji, Mei Xiang, and Tian Tian via the Giant Panda Cam, one of five live animal webcams hosted on the Zoo's website.
On November 12, the National Zoo announced the panda cub had started teething. He turned three months old on November 21.
As part of the Zoo's cooperative breeding agreement with the China Wildlife Conservation Association, all cubs born at the Zoo move to China when they are 4 years old. The Zoo's current cooperative breeding agreement expires in December 2020. The Zoo is currently discussing the arrangement of the giant pandas beyond Dec. 7 with colleagues in China.
As a public health precaution due to COVID-19, the Smithsonian's National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute is closed to the public.
In addition to this cub, Mei Xiang has given birth to three surviving offspring: Tai Shan, Bao Bao and Bei Bei. Tai Shan was born July 9, 2005, and moved to China Feb. 2010. Bao Bao was born Aug. 23, 2013, and moved to China in Feb. 2017. Bei Bei was born Aug. 22, 2015, and moved to China in Nov. 2019.