Baby Panda Gets A Name

It's not a name found in any of those baby name books, but for the giant panda cub at the San Diego Zoo, Hua Mei is the perfect identity.

Chinese for "China USA", Hua Mei was officially named Wednesday, 100 days after her birth to Bai Yun and Shi Shi, reports CBS News Correspondent Manuel Gallegus. The proud panda parents are on a 12-year research loan from China.

Hua Mei was conceived with the help of artificial insemination. She is the first giant panda born in the Western Hemisphere since 1990, and the first in the United States to survive past four days.

"The significance of this special name is profound," said Dr. Don Lindburg, leader of the zoo's panda research team. "It symbolizes the close partnership forged between our two countries as we work together to bring this magnificent animal back from the brink of extinction."

The cub's name was a closely held secret for weeks. It was selected by the Chinese State Forestry Administration and approved by Chinas Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Although Hua Mei translates into "China USA", the Chinese words have several other meanings. "Hua" also can be interpreted as "magnificent" or "splendid." "Mei" signifies "pretty" or "beautiful."

Three giant scrolls were unfurled revealing the Chinese characters, the English translation and the Chinese pronunciation of the appellation during a ceremony called the Celebration of 100 Days.

Chinese tradition decrees that baby pandas do not receive their names until they are at least 100 days old.

Ambassador An Wenbin, Consul General of the People's Republic of China in Los Angeles, called the cub China's youngest "goodwill ambassador" when announcing her name.

Hua Mei was visible via remote video during the ceremony, but a Zoo spokeswoman said she probably won't go on public display until January.

"The cubs progress reads like any infants baby book," Dr. Lindburg said. "She's gained about 11 pounds since her birth weight of approximately 4 ounces. She's teething, vocalizing and sitting up by herself, and she's had her first vaccination for canine distemper without a whimper."

He said Hua Mei appears to be developing at the same rate as other baby pandas studied by San Diego Zoo researchers at the Wolong Nature Preserve in the People's Republic of China.

Shi Shi is the cub's father and Bai Yun, the mother, has taken care of the baby since her birth. Researchers have monitored the two closely, intervening only to perform a weekly health check on the cub, Lindburg said.

"Bai Yun has proved to be an excellent first-time mother. Her maternal instincts are right on," Lindburg said.

The birth and ensuing months have enabled researchers including two from China to gain further knowledge of the elusive giant panda by observing neonate development, mothering behavior and infant behavioral developent, he said.

"This is the first instance where a panda cubs birth and early progress have been allowed to unfold as nature intended," Lindburg said. "We had read about the tiny size of the infant and the devoted care of the mother. We also knew that in the wild, the mother abstained from food and water for several days after the birth. It was good to have the chance to see and document these facts for the first time in the United States."

With only 1,000 pandas left in the world, the birth and healthy growth of Hua Mei are small steps toward enhancing the survival of this critically endangered species, he said.

To see a live video feed of the cub and her mother inside their den, check out the Panda Cam on the zoo's Web site. You will be able to see exactly what panda researchers see, but zoo officials say viewers will need to refresh or reload the images on the site every few minutes in order to get the latest video.

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