Tokyo Zoo Names Giant Panda Cub Twins After Selecting from More Than 190,000 Entries

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panda cubs
panda cubs

Tokyo Zoo

The Ueno Zoo in Tokyo has officially introduced its newest additions.

After the giant panda twins were born at the zoo on June 23, the naming selection committee chose from the top 150 fan entries. The zoo announced Friday that the male cub has been given the name Xiao Xiao, and the female has been named Lei Lei.

Tokyo's Governor Yuriko Koike announced the names during a news conference, explaining that Xiao Xiao means "the light of dawn turning brighter," and Lei Lei can be translated as a bud growing into a beautiful flower and building a bright future.

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"Together, Xiao Xiao and Lei Lei can mean bright dawn leading to the future. I think their names have a very bright image," Governor Koike said, according to the Associated Press.

As pandas are widely popular in Japan and other parts of the world, a naming selection committee was set up with officials from the zoo and the Tokyo government, in consultation with the Giant Panda National Park in China, which owns the pandas.

The committee narrowed down the pool from 192,712 entries to the 150 most suggested names, before deliberating on five male names and six female names. Xiao Xiao received 482 nominations, while Lei Lei got 7,617.

Now, Xiao Xiao and Lei Lei weigh about 13 pounds each and measure about two feet long. The twins are being privately raised inside the zoo, but are expected to make their public debut in January.

Twins are not uncommon among giant pandas, but mothers typically only rear one cub. As cubs are not born in an advanced state of development, it's up to the zookeepers to ensure that panda twins born in a zoo receive adequate care and form a bond with the mother.

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As of 2014, there are 1,864 giant pandas in the wilderness of China's Sichuan, Shaanxi, and Gansu provinces, having increased by 17% in the past decade, according to the World Wildlife Fund. Although the International Union for Conservation of Nature upgraded the species from "endangered" to "vulnerable" in 2016, they still face threats of habitat fragmentation and loss, due to expanding human populations and deforestation.