Michelle Obama and Madame Peng Liyuan, First Lady of the People's Republic of China, visited the National Zoo today to announce the name of the new giant panda cub born August 22 at the National Zoo. Together, they selected the name Bei Bei, which is complementary to Bao Bao, the name of the cub's older sister.
Two names were proposed as options for the cub's name: Ping Ping from panda keepers at the National Zoo and Bei Bei from keepers at the China Conservation and Research Center for the Giant Panda in Wolong, Sichuan Province.
The naming of the cub just over a month after its birth came as a surprise as it breaks the Chinese tradition of waiting 100 days after birth to announce the name. But Chinese parents no longer wait 100 days to name their children and Chinese researchers and panda keepers no longer wait that long to name cubs either.
Students from Washington Yu Ying Public Charter School greeted the first ladies to the zoo with a rendition of "Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes" in Mandarin, and helped unroll the scrolls that revealed the name printed in Mandarin and English.
Bao Bao and their father Tian Tian celebrated the naming with frozen "cakes" in their outdoor yards. At one point, Bao Bao climbed a tree to watch the announcement. Mei Shan remained inside, caring for her newly named son. Two-year-old Bao Bao and Bei Bei will both live at the National Zoo until they are four years old, and then they will be taken to the China Conservation and Research Center for the Giant Panda, where they will live out the rest of their lives.
The announcement of the name comes just days after the National Zoo announced that Carlyle Group co-founder and giant panda enthusiast David Rubenstein has donated $4.5 million to the giant panda conservation program at the Zoo. This donation, which should keep the program running through 2020, brings the Rubensteins' contribution to giant panda conservation efforts to $9 million.