(Reuters) - Thousands of giant panda fans from around the world have chosen the names Ya Lun and Xi Lun for the new female twins at the Atlanta zoo, officials said on Monday.
Ya means "elegant," Xi means "happy," and Lun refers to the fluffy black-and-white bears' mother, Lun Lun. The names were announced on the 100th day after their Sept. 3 births, in line with Chinese tradition, Zoo Atlanta said in a statement.
The names were the winning combination from among seven sets supplied by the zoo's partners in China. Ya Lun and Xi Lun earned just over 11,000 of the more than 23,400 votes cast by panda fans globally from Nov. 21 to Dec. 4.
"As we wish Ya Lun and Xi Lun well today, we celebrate the future of their species together," Zoo Atlanta Chief Executive Officer Raymond King said.
Although the International Union for the Conservation of Nature downgraded the giant panda's status to "vulnerable" from "endangered" in September, the species still relies heavily on conservation programs, the zoo said.
Fewer than 1,900 giant pandas are estimated to remain in the wild in China’s Sichuan, Shaanxi and Gansu provinces. They are threatened by habitat fragmentation and loss as a result of deforestation and other human activities, the zoo said.
Ya Lun and Xi Lun are the second set of twins for Lun Lun and male Yang Yang, and the pair's sixth and seventh offspring.
Their older brothers and sisters, male Mei Lan, male Xi Lan, female Po and female twins Mei Lun and Mei Huan, live at the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding in China.
The pandas did not attend a ceremony announcing their names since they are still learning to walk. Ya Lun and Xi Lun are expected to make their debut in late December or in January.
(Reporting by Ian Simpson in Washington; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Lisa Von Ahn)