Houston Community News >> Baby Panda Is Finally Named

11/1/2007 Vienna - The first giant panda to be conceived and born in captivity in Europe finally has a name: "Fu Long" or Happy Dragon, Vienna's Schonbrunn Zoo announced on Thursday.

Respondents to an Internet petition by the zoo selected the name from four proposed by China, owner of the two-month-old panda.

His seven-year-old parents, Yang Yang and Long Hui, have been at the Austrian zoo since 2003, on loan from the Chinese government.

Coupling of pandas in captivity is extremely difficult, since females are only fertile three or four days per year. Another panda was born at a Madrid zoo in 1982 thanks to artificial insemination.

Moreover, early survival rate is low - roughly 40 percent of baby pandas die in their first year, according to the Vienna zoo.

But Fu Long is thriving, zoo officials say. His fur has morphed from pure white to the characteristic black-and-white markings of giant pandas, which eat up to 30kg of bamboo per day.

Only 1 600 giant pandas remain in the wild, living in north-western China's mountainous Sichuan region. Still fewer - a paltry 160 - exist in captivity.

China began in 1984 its long-term panda lending program to foreign zoos, which pay up to a million dollars yearly to house the charismatic, baby-like creatures.

Fu Long's official naming ceremony is to take place in December, during a visit by a Chinese delegation, the zoo said in a statement.

(Contributed by IOL)