KUALA LUMPUR: The second giant panda born in Malaysia has been named Yi Yi, meaning friendship.
The 19-month-old female cub, born last January, is the offspring of Liang Liang and Xing Xing - the two pandas currently on a 10-year loan from China. The pair arrived in Malaysia in May 2014 to mark 40 years of diplomatic ties between the two countries.
At the naming ceremony on Thursday (Aug 1), Malaysia's Water, Land and Natural Resources Minister Xavier Jayakumar said Yi Yi's name had been carefully selected following consultation with the China Wildlife Conservation Association.
"It is my fervent hope that akin to the meaning of the name, the friendship between Malaysia and the People's Republic of China will be further enhanced; not limited to giant panda conservation efforts, but also diplomatically and economically," said Dr Jayakumar.
The ceremony, held at the Giant Panda Conservation Centre at Malaysia's national zoo in Kuala Lumpur, was also attended by China's Ambassador to Malaysia Bai Tian.
The first Malaysian-born panda, Yi Yi's sibling Nuan Nuan, was born in 2015. He was returned to China in 2017.
According to the agreement, panda cubs born in captivity must be returned to China by the age of two.
Weighing 750g at birth, Yi Yi has since grown into a healthy cub weighing almost 50kg.
"She is active, bonds well with her mother and in good health condition," Dr Jayakumar said. "Though the cub still feeds on milk, it has also been exposed to other diets such as bamboo leaves and carrots."
China has been sending their black and white ambassadors abroad as a sign of goodwill since the 1950s as part of what is known as "panda diplomacy".
Getting the endangered, shy and bamboo-eating animals to mate is a famously difficult task. They have an exceptionally short breeding season, with females fertile for just 24 to 36 hours a year, according to conservation groups.
Yi Yi's conception was remarkably momentous as it took place outside of the normal mating season, a testament to Malaysia's pledge to ensure a "safe and comfortable home" for pandas, Dr Jayakumar added.