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Meet Maple and Mei Mei: Vancouver zoo reveals names of rare red pandas born in June

A handout photo from the Greater Vancouver Zoo shows one of two red panda cubs that became the first-ever born on the West Coast back in June. The results of a naming contest were announced April 7, with Maple picked for the male and Mei Mei for the female. A handout photo from the Greater Vancouver Zoo shows one of two red panda cubs that became the first-ever born on the West Coast back in June. The results of a naming contest were announced April 7, with Maple picked for the male and Mei Mei for the female.
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The first red pandas ever born on the West Coast officially have names, the Greater Vancouver Zoo revealed Friday.

Following a public contest in February to name the twin cubs, which were born last June, the zoo has picked the name Maple for the male and Mei Mei for the female.

In Mandarin, mei mei translates to “little sister.”

“Our hope with this naming contest was to increase awareness for this incredibly unique and endangered species, and we did not anticipate the largest response we have experienced to date,” said Menita Prasad, the zoo’s deputy general manger and director of animal care, in a statement.

Prasad and two other judges—the Vancouver Sun’s chief editor Harold Munro and radio host Vanessa Newman—came to a unanimous decision after narrowing the options down from tens of thousands of entries, according to the zoo.

The naming contest ran from Feb. 16 to March 26, and the winning submitters will each receive a prize pack—including a zoo membership—and get to meet the red pandas themselves.

“As these are the only two red pandas born (so far) in B.C., we are hoping to keep that in mind with respect to deciding the names,” the zoo wrote in its call for submissions in February.

Maple and Mei Mei’s father Arun was born in Manitoba’s Assiniboine Park Zoo, while their mother Sakura was born in Quebec’s Granby Zoo.

On recommendation of the Species Survival Plan (SSP), Arun and Sakura were introduced at the Vancouver zoo in March 2021.

Their cubs will be at the zoo for at least one year—the amount of time baby red pandas typically stay with their mom in the wild.

After that period, the SSP may pair them with potential mates at other facilities, according to the zoo.

“We now know that wherever these cubs end up, wherever they may go on their conservation journey, they will forever have a piece of home with them,” the Greater Vancouver Zoo wrote online Friday.

Red pandas are listed as an endangered species and there are fewer than 10,000 individuals in the wild, according to the World Wildlife Fund. 

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