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 – Le Le ( 叻叻) – garnered more than 31,000 votes. Overall, 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 word “Le” comes from “Shi Le Po”, which is an ancient Chinese name for Singapore and in use since the country’s beginning as a trading port, Mandai Wildlife Group said in a press release.
The term is also a transliteration of the Malay term “selat”, which means straits, indicative of Singapore’s geographical location, it added.
Other names shortlisted for the vote were Hong Hong (宏宏), Xin Le (新乐), Xin Yang (新阳) and Xin Yuan (新缘).
Guests heading to River Wonders will be able to visit Le Le in its new glass-fronted nursery at the Giant Panda Forest from Thursday, Mandai Wildlife Group added.
Viewing times are scheduled for about 10.30am and 3.30pm daily, as these reflect Jia Jia and Le Le’s present routines.
"These viewing periods coincide with Jia Jia's feeding and exercise sessions when she is comfortable to leave little Le Le on his own," the group said in the press release.
"Each viewing window, which ranges between 20 and 30 minutes, may vary depending on the comfort level of both mother and son, and will be reviewed and adjusted over the next few weeks."
“We are overjoyed that our panda cub now has a name, and one that is proudly indicative of his birth city,” said Dr Cheng Wen-Haur, Mandai Wildlife Group’s deputy CEO of life sciences and operations, and chief life sciences officer.
The announcement was made by Singapore’s Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat and Chinese Vice Premier Han Zheng at a virtual ceremony 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.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong also said in a Facebook post that Le Le symbolised Singapore's bilateral ties with China.
"The baby panda cub was born after the 7th try, on the 7th day of the 7th lunar month, known as the Qixi Festival or Chinese Valentine’s Day. Le Le surely symbolises the harmonious relationship between our panda couple, and our bilateral ties with China," he wrote.
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 been 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 Mandai Wildlife Group 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.
Mandai Wildlife Group said previously that it was in talks with Chinese authorities about extending Kai Kai and Jia Jia’s stay in Singapore beyond 2022.