Belgium's first baby panda named 'Treasure of Heaven'

AFP , Thursday 15 Sep 2016

A Belgian zoo on Thursday finally named a baby giant panda three months after its birth, calling it "Tian Bao", which means "Treasure of Heaven" in Chinese.

The name was chosen by the panda's keepers at Pairi Daiza wildlife park outside Brussels after an online survey online, in which Tian Bao received the most public votes.

The cub's mother, Hao Hao, and her mate Xing Hui were loaned to Belgium from China for 15 years in February 2014 to mark Chinese President Xi Jinping's state visit to the kingdom.

There are about 1,800 freely roaming pandas left in the world, with about 400 in captivity, mainly in southwest China. The species has a notoriously low birthrate.

The name Tian Bao received 40 percent of the vote in the online survey, beating Xing Hao ("Good Star"), Ou Xing ("Star of Europe"), Hua Li ("China and Belgium") and An Tuan ("United Peace").

Previously, the baby panda was just referred to as "Baby P".

Chinese ambassador to Belgium Qu Xing and Belgian Environment Minister Marie-Christine Marghem both attended the official naming ceremony, which falls on the same day as the Chinese mid-autumn festival.

A plaque was unveiled bearing the cub's new name in both Chinese and Latin characters -- while the animal was also named an honorary citizen of the town of Brugelette, 50 kilometres (30 miles), where the zoo is located.

The panda cub was born on June 2 to much fanfare, after Hao Hao was artificially inseminated twice in February with the sperm of Xing Hui.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature on September 4 upgraded the giant panda's status from "endangered" to "vulnerable", following decades of conservation work in China.

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