I have worked as a panda narrator at the San Diego Zoo’s Giant Panda Research Center for only a couple of years, and I’ve never been to a naming ceremony before. As this was my first one, I was VERY excited! While we waited, two Chinese musicians played traditional music, and a video montage of the cub’s exams thus far played above the stage. I, for one, could watch it over and over—the little guy is just that cute!
Once all of the anxious audience members were seated, a beautiful parade began. Chinese lion dancers in amazing costumes danced around the Zoo’s Hunte Amphitheater and interacted with the crowd. After a small performance, the president of our board of trustees, Rick Gulley, spoke about how thrilling the moment was. He then introduced the consulate-general of the People’s Republic of China, Qiu Shaofang, who discussed how happy China is with the accomplishments the Zoo has had with giant panda conservation. He included the cub’s name: Xiao Liwu, which means “little gift.” The audience gasped in amazement. Finally, the co-head of our giant panda program, Ron Swaisgood, spoke of the conservation accomplishments in China and at the Zoo. It really opened everyone’s eyes as to how much we are doing to help these amazing bears.
Once the speeches were over, the three men unveiled a black cloth that was draped over the large sign. There was the photo of Xiao Liwu and his name and pronunciation (sshyaoww-lee-woo) printed on the bottom. This sixth cub really is a “little gift” to our Zoo. Attending this ceremony made me very proud to not only be a San Diegan, but to be a panda narrator. This was truly an amazing and unforgettable experience!
Alyssa Medeiros is a panda narrator at the San Diego Zoo. Read her previous post, Yun Zi: A Wild Child.