The first giant panda to be born in France is finally set to move to China this summer after his transfer was delayed due to the Covid pandemic.
Yuan Meng was born in 2017 in the ZooParc Beauval, in Saint-Aignan (Loir-et-Cher).
#YuanMeng est en effet appelé à se reproduire dans le futur. Il rejoint donc la base de Chengdu, centre d'élevage et de reproduction des #pandas géants. Restez connectés, on vous en dit plus sur son départ ! ⤵️https://t.co/WKw1Z1THYv pic.twitter.com/eQ2eXLknqH— ZooParc de Beauval (@zoobeauval) May 4, 2023
The panda is now a young adult and will be sent to the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding in China on July 4, to reproduce “with a female with no parental links” to him, zoo director Rodolphe Delord told FranceInfo.
Mr Delord said: “He will not be released back into the wild, but his children could be. There is now enough genetic diversification for their reintroduction.”
Before he sets off, Yuan Meng will be placed in quarantine in France for a month. He will then be transferred in an air-conditioned van to Frankfurt airport in Germany. He will then travel to Chengdu, accompanied at all times by a carer and vet from Beauval.
“It’s very emotional,” said Mr Delord. “For us, it’s really a big event, but it’s the logical next step. What matters most to us, is the conservation of the species.”
Yuan Meng’s ‘godmother’ is Brigitte Macron, after she visited him soon after the panda’s birth. Yuan Meng’s parents, “celebrity couple” Yuan Zi and Huan Huan, were loaned to France by Chinese authorities in 2012.
Their trip has since been extended to 2027, and in 2021, Huan Huan gave birth to twins.
FA-BU-LEUX ! Nous avons l'immense joie de vous annoncer la naissance de 2 jolis petits pandas, nés cette nuit ! Plus d'infos par ici ! ⬇ #BébésPandaBeauval— ZooParc de Beauval (@zoobeauval) August 2, 2021
©Eric Baccega https://t.co/M3HgZ2qadT pic.twitter.com/K2NNJHtOw6
Only around 20 zoo parks worldwide host at least one of these types of panda, outside of China. They have become symbols of diplomatic friendship between Beijing and other nations.
Yuan Meng’s birth was hailed as a success story for the diplomacy programme and a positive new chapter in relations between China and France.
Giant pandas are on the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List of Threatened Species, also known as the IUCN Red List. This is because climate change is threatening their habitat.
It had been listed as a species in “danger”, but since 2016 its alert status has been lowered to “vulnerable” due to protection efforts, and Beijing’s reforestation efforts.