Animal lovers have until Friday to vote for one of the four names selected by the National Zoo’s panda team and their panda conservation colleagues in China

By Amy Eskind
November 18, 2020 03:10 PM
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Credit: the Smithsonian Institution

Smitten zookeepers taking care of the giant panda cub at Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute have been calling him "our little guy" since his birth on August 21st. He’s three months old now, and It’s time for a real name.

The public has been enamored with the cub too — with 1.5 million animal lovers tuning in to the zoo’s panda cam to see him —  so the zoo is inviting his throngs of virtual fans to help select his name. All are invited to vote on a favorite name among the four chosen by the zoo’s panda team and their panda conservation colleagues in China.

With a nod to his home country, the names selected are Chinese: Fu Zai (福仔) [fu-tzai], which means "prosperous boy," Xiao Qi ji (小奇迹) [shiau-chi-ji], "little miracle," Xing Fu (幸福) [shing-fu], "happy and prosperous," and Zai Zai (仔仔) [tzai-tzai], a traditional Chinese nickname for a boy.

Xiao Qi ji, "little miracle," was chosen because, at age 22, mother Mei Xiang is the oldest panda to give birth in North America, and because of the joy the cub has delivered amidst the global coronavirus pandemic. Two names reflect that he’s healthy and thriving, and Zai Zai is "just a really cute name," Annalisa Meyer, deputy director of communications at the zoo, says.

"All of the names reflect what this cub has meant to us, the zoo community,"  Meyer tells PEOPLE. "The cub has brought so much joy and happiness at a time when things are challenging for so many people," she says, offering some respite as people "pause and wonder at the natural world."

Votes must be in by Friday and the winning name will be announced Monday. So far, 67,000 votes have been cast. The cub’s older sister, Bao Bao, was also picked by public vote. "It’s a wonderful way to connect people to the animals,"  Meyer adds, especially while the giant pandas are off exhibit.

Credit: the Smithsonian Institution

At his exam on Wednesday, the fluffy cub weighed in at 10.4 pounds, he’s 22 inches from tip to tail, and 18 inches in girth. His teeth are starting to come in, but he’s still exclusively nursing. The cub, under mom's watchful eye, is still trying to balance himself on all fours.

"He’s pushing up and he’s really close — tune into that panda cam," Meyer says of the cub's progress.

The cub will likely make his public debut in January.