How exactly do giant pandas get their unique names?

(People's Daily Online) 15:58, November 19, 2021

In August 2020, a giant panda nicknamed “Zhima” (meaning sesame) was officially named Rongbao, after the animal was selected via a public vote to serve as the mascot for the 2021 Summer Universiade in Chengdu, southwest China’s Sichuan Province.

Photo shows a giant panda nicknamed “Zhima.” (Photo from scpublic.cn)

Not all of the names of the giant pandas were finalized through public voting. Generally speaking, a giant panda has two names – a nickname and an official name. The nickname is usually given to the bear after it is born, in an attempt to distinguish the cub from others.

If a mother panda gives birth to twins, the elder brother or sister will be given a nickname with the character “Da” (meaning older) in it, while the younger brother or sister will be given a name with the character “Xiao” (meaning younger) in it.

If a mother panda gives birth to triplets, they will be given nicknames that carry characters “Da” (meaning first in this case), “Er” (second) and “San” (third), respectively, to distinguish the three cubs from each other based on their slightly different delivery times. Some pandas got their nicknames because of their own special individual physical characteristics, while others were named after the places where they were born.

The official name of a giant panda is universally recognized. When a panda gets an official name, its nickname will usually no longer be used. For instance, after being designated as the first-ever Animal Ambassadors for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the giant pandas nicknamed “Qing Da” and “Qing Xiao” were officially named “Qi Qi” and “Dian Dian,” respectively, having thereafter been added to the pedigree database for the giant panda.

The pedigree database for the giant panda is a universal naming system for captive giant pandas. Each panda gets a unique code to prove its identity, while behind each code there is a name designated for the panda. Also, the naming of the pandas must follow a comprehensive set of rules and requirements, and the names must embody the bears’ relationship with their families so that they can be identified and studied during the process of undertaking scientific research.

There are various ways to officially name a giant panda, including inviting the public to vote for their favorite names, the Chinese government naming the panda before giving it away as a gift to other countries, naming the panda after an international organization or protection institute that designates it as an animal ambassador, among many other approaches.


(Web editor: Hongyu, Liang Jun)


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