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'Miracle' Baby Panda Named

 

Updated : Aug 11, 2009

A panda cub born in Thailand after years of artificial insemination and efforts to get its celibate parents to mate has been named in a competition, a government official said Monday.

The female cub has been called "Linping" -- which means "forest of ice" in Chinese -- the name voted for by 60 percent of 22 million people who sent in postcard entries to the contest.

The cub was born in May when eight-year-old giant panda Lin Hui surprised workers at Chiang Mai zoo by giving birth, just three months after receiving semen from nine-year-old partner Chuang Chuang.

The cub's new moniker is a mixture of the first half of her mother's name with the name of the main river in Chiang Mai, said Suvit Khunkitti, minister of natural resources and environment.

"It is a very appropriate name because it has a good meaning, both in Thai and in Chinese," said Suvit.

The panda pair had shown no interest in reproducing the traditional way since they both arrived on a 10-year loan from China in 2003. The cub will officially belong to China but will stay with Thailand on a two-year loan.

In 2006, Chuang Chuang, who had been deemed too heavy to mate with Lin Hui, lost weight on a low-carbohydrate diet and was then shown 15-minute video clips of successful panda couplings, but to no avail.

Lin Hui was first artificially inseminated in April 2007 but failed to become pregnant.

The zoo tried a different approach in January, when a cold snap in the northern city prompted an unusually frisky response from Lin Hui, but again without any luck.

Giant pandas, notorious for their low sex drive, are among the planet's most endangered animals. Nearly 1,600 pandas are believed to survive in the wild in China and about 180 are being raised in captivity in zoos worldwide.

 

 

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