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News Navigator: How will twin giant panda cubs at Tokyo's Ueno zoo be named?

Twin giant panda cubs -- a male, left, and a female -- are seen on Sept. 20, 2021 at 89 days old. (Photo courtesy of the Tokyo Zoological Park Society)

The Mainichi Shimbun answers some common questions readers may have about how the twin giant panda cubs at Tokyo's Ueno zoo, which were born in June, will be named.

    Question: It's been more than three months since the giant panda cubs, a female and a male, were born at Ueno Zoological Gardens in the capital's Taito Ward. How have they been doing?

    Answer: The male weighed 124 grams on June 23, the day they were born, while the female was 146 grams the following day. At 97 days old on Sept. 28, both weighed 5,550 grams. Their teeth are growing in, too, with five confirmed for the male and eight for the female. While their 16-year-old mother Shin Shin is caring for one cub, the other spends time in a nursery room. They are switched every 10 to 15 days.

    Q: I'm looking forward to seeing them grow up. Will they start walking soon?

    A: Xian Xian, 4, born in 2017 to the same parents as the twin cubs, was able to stand on four legs when she was 3 months old, and began to walk on four legs in the fourth month. That's also when she became able to see. At 5 months old, she weighed about 10 kilograms and began to climb logs.

    Q: Xian Xian was named about three months after birth. Will the twin cubs also be named soon?

    A: The zoo publicly solicited name suggestions until Aug. 20, and a total of 192,712 were submitted on the internet, in a postbox set up in the zoo, and by other means. A selection committee whose members include actor Tetsuko Kuroyanagi and music critic Reiko Yukawa will consider the ideas, and plans to announce the names later this month. Xian Xian was also picked from among public suggestions, but it was the eighth most popular submission. The most commonly proposed name was "Run Run," followed by "Mei Mei." The selection committee narrowed the suggestions down to eight, considered their Chinese kanji characters and discussed them with China, where she will be returned. The committee eventually chose Xian Xian for reasons including "being easy to pronounce."

    Q: Can we see the twins in person soon?

    A: Ueno zoo has typically put pandas on public display when they were about 6 months old. So for now, let's watch over their growth with a caring eye.

    (Japanese original by Kazuo Yanagisawa, Tokyo Bureau)

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