Belgium's first baby panda named Tian Bao - 'Treasure of Heaven'

Baby panda Tian Bao trying to escape from zookeeper Tania Stroobant at the Pairi Daiza animal park in Belgium, on Sept 15, 2016.
Baby panda Tian Bao trying to escape from zookeeper Tania Stroobant at the Pairi Daiza animal park in Belgium, on Sept 15, 2016. PHOTO: AFP
Three-month-old baby panda Tian Bao is pictured during a press conference at the Pairi Daiza animal park in Belgium on Sept 15, 2016.
Three-month-old baby panda Tian Bao is pictured during a press conference at the Pairi Daiza animal park in Belgium on Sept 15, 2016.PHOTO: AFP

BRUSSELS (AFP) - A Belgian zoo on Thursday (Sept 15) finally named a baby giant panda three months after its birth, calling it "Tian Bao", which means "Treasure of Heaven" in Chinese.

The name was chosen by the panda's keepers at Pairi Daiza wildlife park outside Brussels after an online survey online, in which Tian Bao received the most public votes.

The name Tian Bao received 40 per cent of the vote in the online survey, beating Xing Hao ("Good Star"), Ou Xing ("Star of Europe"), Hua Li ("China and Belgium") and An Tuan ("United Peace").

Previously, the baby panda was just referred to as "Baby P".

Chinese Ambassador to Belgium Qu Xing and Belgian Environment Minister Marie-Christine Marghem both attended the official naming ceremony, which falls on the same day as the Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival.

A plaque was unveiled bearing the cub's new name in both Chinese and Latin characters - while the animal was also named an honorary citizen of the town of Brugelette, 50km where the zoo is located.

The cub's mother, Hao Hao, and her mate Xing Hui were loaned to Belgium from China for 15 years in February 2014 to mark Chinese President Xi Jinping's state visit to the kingdom.

The panda cub was born on June 2 to much fanfare, after Hao Hao was artificially inseminated twice in February with the sperm of Xing Hui.

There are about 1,800 freely roaming pandas left in the world, with about 400 in captivity, mainly in south-west China. The species has a notoriously low birth rate.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature on Sept 4 upgraded the giant panda's status from "endangered" to "vulnerable", following decades of conservation work in China.