Chinese netizens call for return of panda family in US zoo

By Chen Xi Source: Global Times Published: 2020/11/24 15:28:40


Panda cub Xiao Qi Ji at 3 months and 6 weeks old at the Smithsonian's National Zoo in Washington DC Photo: AFP

Panda cub Xiao Qi Ji at 3 months and 6 weeks old at the Smithsonian's National Zoo in Washington DC Photo: AFP

Chinese netizens once again picked up calls for the return of a panda family living in the Smithsonian's National Zoo in the US after the zoo announced on Monday that the name of its newborn giant panda is "Xiao Qi Ji," which means "little miracle" in English. 

Chosen through an online poll of nearly 135,000 voters, the name competed against "Fu Zai," "Xing Fu," and "Zai Zai" from November 16 to Friday on the zoo's official website.

The male panda cub was born on August 21 at the National Zoo. Its mother is the 22-year-old Mei Xiang, the oldest giant panda to give birth in the US and the first panda in the country to give birth by artificial insemination, according to the zoo. While the estimated lifespan of a giant panda is around 15-20 years in the wild and 25-30 in captivity, the current oldest giant panda in captivity Xinxing is 38. 

Many Chinese netizens commented that the birth of Xiao Qi Ji was also a miracle for its mother at such an old age, while others said it was time for the panda family to return home.

Posts about Mei Xiang having "convulsions" after eating an icy treat, as alleged by some Chinese netizens in mid-October, have caused continuous controversy on Chinese social media platforms. 

"Please let them come home. Mei Xiang is so old and had to be inseminated artificially. Please stop violating the laws of nature," one Chinese netizen wrote on Sina Weibo. 

Some netizens even called on China not to renew the zoo's contract when it expires on December 7.

Zhang Guiquan, an expert at Chengdu's China Giant Panda Conservation and Research Center, told the Global Times on Tuesday that the upper limit of a captive pandas' reproductive age is still inconclusive. Some giant panda in their 20s in China, including some in the center, still have the ability to give birth to panda cubs. 

"Our center has a giant panda who gave birth to a new panda cub when she was 23 years old," said Zhang. 

He explained that Mei Xiang is entering old age, but this does not mean she does not have the ability to reproduce or be in heat.

"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 amid the COVID-19 pandemic," says a statement on the zoo's website. 

The name has won a lot of compliments among netiznes from all over the world on Twitter. 

"So excited to hear the cub's new name! My Mom and I voted for that name every day! He is truly a little miracle. He has been the bright light during this pandemic for the entire world! May he continue to grow big and strong," one netizen posted on Twitter. 

Chinese Ambassador to the US Cui Tiankai also sent his heartiest congratulations to the "little ambassador" on Twitter on Tuesday.

The announcement came on the same day that the zoo shut its doors to the public for the second time in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the indoor panda house remained closed to the public even after the zoo was reopened on July 24.

Mei Xiang and the 23-year-old male giant panda Tian Tian have lived at the Smithsonian's National Zoo since 2000. The zoo's contract with its partners in China has been twice extended, in 2010 and 2015. Mei Xiang has given birth to seven cubs and three have survived to adulthood, according to reports.

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