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First giant panda cub born in Singapore named 'Le Le' after public vote

SINGAPORE — The cub born to giant pandas Kai Kai and Jia Jia has been named after the results of a public vote were announced on Wednesday (Dec 29).

Le Le in his new nursery.

Le Le in his new nursery.

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SINGAPORE — The cub born to giant pandas Kai Kai and Jia Jia has been named after the results of a public vote were announced on Wednesday (Dec 29).

The winning name with the highest number of votes is “Le Le” ( 叻叻). According to the public vote website, the word “Le” comes from an old Chinese term “Shi Le Po” which refers to Singapore.

"This was in use since our beginnings as a trading port. 'Shi Le Po' is a transliteration of the Malay term 'selat' which means straits, indicative of our geographical location," the website said.

Other names shortlisted for the vote were "Hong Hong" (宏宏), "Xin Le" (新乐), "Xin Yang" (新阳) and "Xin Yuan" (新缘).

More than 64,000 votes were submitted in the online poll held from Nov 3 to Nov 7 to decide the name of the first Singapore-born giant panda.

The announcement was made by Singapore’s Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat and Chinese Vice Premier Han Zheng at a virtual ceremony held after the 17th Joint Council for Bilateral Cooperation (JCBC) meeting between Singapore and China.

In an opinion piece published in Lianhe Zaobao on Tuesday ahead of the annual JCBC meeting, Mr Heng called the birth of the panda cub “a joyous occasion” and a symbol of friendship between Singapore and China.

The cub was born on the morning of Aug 14, nine years after first-time parents Kai Kai and Jia Jia arrived in Singapore.

Giant pandas are notoriously difficult to breed, in part due to the narrow window for conception. Female pandas only ovulate once a year and their fertility peaks for 24 hours to 36 hours. Prior to the long-awaited birth of the panda cub, there have annual attempts to encourage Kai Kai and Jia Jia to mate since 2015.

Following a series of assessments, the cub’s gender was revealed in September. By then, it was growing steadily and had begun to develop prominent black markings around its eyes, ears and body.

Members of the public were also invited to submit suggestions for the cub’s name. These submissions were reviewed by a judging panel – chaired by Mr Tan Chuan-Jin, the deputy chairman of Mandai Park Holdings – which narrowed them down to five names. They were then put up for public voting.

The panda cub is set to return to China when it reaches independence in about two years and will join the rest of China’s panda breeding population, the Wildlife Reserves Singapore (WRS) said in August.

Kai Kai and Jia Jia, which turned 14 and 13 years old respectively in September this year, are in Singapore on a 10-year loan from China. This is set to end next year.

WRS said previously that it is in talks with Chinese authorities about extending Kai Kai and Jia Jia’s stay in Singapore beyond 2022. CNA

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