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Posted on Sun. Jul. 27, 2014 - 12:01 am EDT

Fort Wayne Children's Zoo's red panda cub now has a name

It means "strong and beautiful."

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The Fort Wayne Children's Zoo's baby red panda now has a name — Maliha, which means "strong and beautiful" in a language of Nepal, the area in which her species lives in the wild.

The zoo announced the 6-week-old cub's name Wednesday.

Zookeeper Helena Lacey, who works with the red pandas daily, chose the cub’s name to reflect the animals' wild home in forests in the foothills of the Himalaya Mountains in Nepal and China, a zoo news release said.

“I also wanted her name to reflect the whole journey we’ve been on with our red pandas for the last three years,” Lacey said in the news release. “Plus, she is a very strong cub, and beautiful, too!”

The birth is important for her species: Red pandas are an endangered species in the wild. Also, about half of all red panda cubs born in captivity die within 30 days of birth, the zoo has said previously.

That was the case with the two previous litters born to Maliha's mother, Xiao, age 5. Two cubs born in 2012 and a single cub born last year all failed to live more than two weeks.

Maliha continues to do well, however, the zoo said in the news release.

She has about quadrupled her birth weight of 139 grams, and now tips the scales about about 1 1/4 pounds. Though Maliha still spends all her time in an air-conditioned nest box in the zoo's red panda exhibit in the Central Zoo, she is more active.

“Maliha rolls around, plays with her feet, and stays awake more,” Lacey said in the news release. “She tries to walk, but her feet still slide out from under her.”

Zookeepers monitor Maliha and Xiao using a live video feed from a camera mounted in the nest box.

Red panda cubs typically stay in their nest for about three months before venturing out, which means zoo visitors likely won't see her until late August or early September at the earliest. The zoo has kept the visitors' path near the red panda exhibit closed to minimize stress on Maliha and Xiao.

After emerging from the nest, Maliha faces another major challenge to survival at about 4 to 5 months old, the zoo said. Xiao will begin weaning her off mom's milk and trying to get her to eat red pandas' natural food, bamboo.


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