Second cub due for French zoo’s celebrity panda couple this summer

Breeding programmes like that at Beauval Zoo have helped save pandas from being endangered

21 July 2021

Yuan Meng eating bamboo with his mother at Beauval Zoo Pic: Daniel X D / Shutterstock

By Ellie Fullalove

Beauval Zoo in central France announced this week that Huan Huan the panda is expecting a second cub.

A scan showed the embryo currently measures 1.74 cm long, so Huan Huan should give birth to her second cub before the end of the summer, a spokesman for the zoo told AFP.

Baby panda facts

  • Panda cubs are among the smallest born to mammals (comparative to their mothers) at 1/900th the size, equivalent to a stick of butter
  • Gestation is shorter than other bears (95 to 160 days or 3-5 months), likely due to nutrient limitations in the mother’s bamboo diet
  • Pandas tend to give birth to single cubs weighing 3-5 ounces (90 – 130g) at the rate of one every two years
  • They are born blind, until they open their eyes at 6-8 weeks
  • It takes three weeks for cubs to become covered by fur

Giant pandas Huan Huan and Yuan Zi arrived at Beauval Zoo on loan from China in 2012 on a ten-year loan period. Their first cub, born in August 2017, was also the first to be born in France.

Huan Huan and Yuan Zi tried to mate again at the end of March this year, but as female pandas are only fertile for 24 to 48 hours every year, artificial insemination was carried out as well.

Beauval’s giant pandas are one of the main attractions at the zoo and when the first cub entered the enclosure at five months old, visitors queued outside for hours to see it.

Huan Huan’s cub was named Yuan Meng, with the official naming ceremony attended by ‘godmother’ Brigitte Macron, wife of President Emmanuel Macron.

Giant pandas vulnerable but not endangered

Vets at the zoo will now be carrying out regular checks on the new embryo, up to twice a week if Huan Huan allows it.

She will likely spend the rest of her pregnancy sleeping as much as possible and is also expected to eat less and less until she gives birth.

The first panda to be born in France is now four years old with Yuan Meng weighing in at over 100 kilos.

There are currently around 500 pandas living in captivity and another 2,000 living in the wild in China.

Breeding programmes like that at Beauval Zoo have helped improve the fortunes of giant pandas, which since 2016 are no longer classified as endangered, yet remain vulnerable.

The loaning of precious pandas from China to zoos around the world is well-known, with research suggesting they are effective for diplomacy and strengthen ties with chosen countries.

Related articles:

'Fluff ball' baby panda now open for public viewing

Panda is huge draw

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