One of the more uplifting stories in the news at the moment is about the delivery of two Chinese pandas, Tian Tian (which means Sweetie) and Yang Guang (Sunshine), to Edinburgh Zoo (video here or read here). The zoo's website crashed as people tried to buy tickets, crowds gathered to welcome them at the airport, even the Deputy First Minister of Scotland was there, and bagpipers played as they were carried down the steps (I'm not sure what they made of that!).
The exact etymology of the word 'panda' is unknown but, says the OED, it probably comes from the second element of the word Nigálya-pónya, a hybrid Nepali and Tibetan term - nigálya meaning cane-eating in Nepali and pónya, a Tibetan name given to animals, and sometimes meaning 'eater of bamboo'. The term panda was originally given to the animal now called the red panda or bear cat. Until about a hundred years ago it was believed that black and white pandas, or giant pandas, like Tian Tian and Yang Guang, were biologically related to the red panda, which, apparently, they are not.
The man who first noticed that the name panda appeared to have a Nepali connection was Brian Houghton Hodgson, a 19th-century British civil servant working in India and Nepal. He was a keen naturalist and ethnologist and described many Himalayan creatures. There are birds and an antelope named after him (see his Wikipedia page). He is interesting from a linguistic point of view, too, because he was opposed to English being used as the medium of instruction in Indian schools. Hodgson, and another early naturalist based in India, Thomas Hardwicke, both initially rejected the term 'panda', according to the OED, preferring instead the common term wah. Wah is an entry in the OED, with citations from the late 1850s, but there is no definition - the reader is directed to the panda page.