The first panda cub born in France at the Beauval Zoo celebrates its first birthday this Saturday. In a year or two, like any offspring born from pandas borrowed by China, he will have to return to the country of his ancestors.
Exactly one year ago, France was touched by the first birth in its land of a panda, which then looked more like a small hairless rat than the black and white plush toy that today frolics in the Beauval Zoo, in the Loire. -Cher.
At 29,350kg, Yuan Meng (pronounced “One Mant”) has “extremely grown” and is doing “very well,” according to Delphine Delors, director of public relations for the Beauval Zoo.
“We give him 1 kg of bamboo a day, compared to the 40 kg that an adult panda consumes daily,” she says. He “chews, looks, tastes”, but mostly continues to suck on his mother’s breast.
It must be said that he is still young, for a species that lives in the wild for an average of twenty years. In the wild, young pandas stay with their mother for two or three years before flying away, explains the park’s founder’s daughter. And the same will happen to Yuan Meng: like any offspring born of pandas loaned by China, the baby from the Beauval zoo will have to return to the country of his ancestors as soon as he is old enough to leave his mother.
At 2 or 3 years old, he will return to China.
“All the babies in the zoo are sent to another place,” says Delfina Delord. “We have 750 births a year, it wouldn’t be good to keep Yuan Meng alive,” she explains to BFMTV.com, reminding that “the real goal is to keep the species alive.”
When everything is ready, the red panda will move to a breeding, research and breeding base in Chengdu, China. “Then they can look at his genetic background and find him a female to breed with,” continues the director of public relations for the park. This research facility, which already covers one hundred hectares for animal housing, also has over 130 hectares of wild and semi-wild spaces to prepare certain pandas for reintroduction into the wild.
Chengdu Base and Beauval Zoo have a very close relationship. The Chinese center sent the greatest insemination specialist to induce pregnancy in Huang Huang (Yuan Meng’s mother), then two nurses at the birth of the baby.
“They were present and watched the birth, took care of him for six months day and night, so we send the news,” she says. One of the caregivers had a special relationship with a female panda because she had been raising her for a while. “Juan Juan recognized her, showed signs, it was very impressive,” she said.
“Hu Jintao and Obama talked about nuclear energy and … pandas”
The team returned to Chengdu six months later. When will Yuan Meng join them? “We don’t know very well, we’re in no hurry!” exclaims Delphine Delord, adding that he is “still very young and dependent on his mother.”
Arrived in 2012 and loaned out for ten years, his parents are due to return to China around 2022, even if some pandas happen to stay in the host country, such as the Washington DC Zoo. But the discussion is diplomatic in nature: the heads of the states concerned decide, not the zoos.
“When they met, Hu Jintao and Obama were talking about nuclear power and… pandas,” jokes Beauval’s public relations director. Yuan Meng ignores these geopolitical considerations. His favorite activities? Wanders, sleeps and worries his mother.