'Fluff ball' baby panda now open for public viewing

The first baby panda to be born in France, Yuan Meng, is now open to public viewings at the ZooParc de Beauval (Centre-Val de Loire).

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The 11kg, five-month-old attracted a record number of visitors to the zoo in Loir-et-Cher on his first public day (Saturday January 13), with many having followed his story for months since he was born in August, reported news source FranceInfo.

Visitors queued outside for hours for a chance to see the little one, whose “godmother” is Brigitte Macron, wife of the President Emmanuel Macron.

Mme Macron was present at the baby’s baptism in early December, where his name, which translates as “the accomplishment of a dream”, was officially revealed. Prior to that, he had been named “Mini Yuan Zi”, after his father.

The panda - the first to be born in France - still has his “young hair”, which means he can sometimes appear somewhat pink and more fragile than his fully-grown black-and-white parents, although this does not appear to have stopped him happily playing with his mother - who is in the same enclosure - as well as clambering on and off his climbing frame.

One visitor, who was among the first to see the baby, explained to FranceInfo that she had been following him “since he had been born”, and was “in love with this little fluff ball. I had to be here”.

Yuan Meng has been lauded as a success for Franco-Chinese relations, as the use of all Chinese pandas in zoos around the world are only permitted with the official permission of the Chinese state.

The baby’s parents - Huan Huan and Yuan Zi - were given to the Zoo Parc Beauval in 2012 on a ten-year loan period, as a sign of friendship between France and China.

All Chinese pandas still belong to China - even those born abroad.

This means that Yuan Meng is expected to be returned back to his home nation when he reaches three years old (the age he can live autonomously without his mother).

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