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Emotion as first giant panda born in France set to leave for China

Yuan Meng, whose godmother is Brigitte Macron, was born at Beauval zoo in 2017

Yuan Meng was the first baby panda to be born in France after his parents were loaned to the zoo from Beijing Pic: Screenshot / ZooParc Beauval

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). 

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. 

Read more: Name of France’s first baby panda finally revealed 

Their trip has since been extended to 2027, and in 2021, Huan Huan gave birth to twins.

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.

Read more: Yuan Meng the latest chapter in France's panda history 

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.

Related articles

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

Yuan Meng the latest chapter in France's panda history 

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