Yuandudu and Juanlili, twin pandas from Beauval Zoo, turn one year old on Tuesday.

In a school notebook, lines go in large squares, in blocks of three or four. Calligraphy, round, broad, dense, imposing or minimal, denotes a variety of writers. On the margins of the date, sometimes highlighted. The document is both a diary and a communication book. It is the link that connects all the panda keepers from the Zoo Beauval who, in turn and for a whole year, watched and watched the two new stars of the Parc Saint-Aignan, in the Loire and Cher. : twins Huanlili and Yuandudu (1), born August 2, 2021

The Panda Saga at the Beauval Zoo

“Team panda” and three-eight

For the past year, this notebook, which has not left the room next to the indoor panda enclosure, monitored by cameras moved by joystick to watch every corner, keeps track of every element, every essential fact, every information in capital letters. or tiny ones from the lives of two bears.

“For the first three months, we did three to eight,” recalls Fabien Papuchon, one of six French healers of the “panda team” created for the occasion. There was always one of us and one of the two Chinese healers to look after them. Behind the scenes of the panda zone, on the heights of the park, Beauval’s team provided logistics, jobs and personnel; The Giant Panda Research Center in Chengdu, China, which has tracked more than a hundred births of this endangered species, has provided expertise and seconded two experts on this ursid, a symbol of the Celestial Empire.

Huanlili and Yuandudu, panda twins at the Beauval Zoo, discovered their enclosure outdoors.

Work ? Watch for those who were called Cotton Flower and Snowball before baptism, born respectively in 149 and 129, without black dots and with closed eyes. Stimulate them to “make them urinate and relieve themselves.” Give them, in turn, to the mother, “who took very good care of them,” to breastfeed. Check incubator settings. Take your temperature “every half an hour” for the first few weeks. Prepare bottles of powdered milk in addition to breast milk.

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Pandas, which are both a national treasure and an instrument of international diplomacy, remain the property of the Chinese government.

“The observation was very thorough in the first week. There was a resident veterinarian in the panda building,” confirms Nicolas Goddard, one of the zoo’s seven veterinarians. Because newborns pose the same risks as any predators.

“They are dependent, do not open their eyes, do not feed. “But since everything was normal, “the observation was mostly visual, and we participated in the withdrawal.” Then, in the following months, surveillance, while remaining daily, was reduced. “For a year, we had no worries,” the veterinarian rejoices. Since the twins are constantly with their mother, we watch this from afar. But always ready to intervene just in case. And always in cooperation with Chinese specialists from the center of Chengdu. Because pandas, both a national treasure and an instrument of international diplomacy (2), remain the property of the Chinese government, which has received 750,000 euros a year from Beauval since the arrival of Huang Huan and Yuan Zi in 2012. Thus, it has the right to vote. when making every important decision.

“More problems, more pressure”

“This species is similar to others, but it is a stellar animal. So there is more, more pressure at stake,” admits Nicolas Goddard. That’s why Beauval veterinarians work with Chinese veterinarians in Chengdu. “We discuss, exchange by e-mail, via WhatsApp. We offer a protocol, they bring us their experience. Never had a problem. The result of this armada of measures? Lili and Dudu, as the healers call them, feel great today and weigh 24 and 29 kg on the scales, respectively. “They have a good growth curve and drink well like mother’s milk, since Huanghuang, the mother, had both powdered milk and complementary foods at the beginning,” a mixture of milk for dogs and for people.

Kylian Mbappe to be godfather

The first black spots at one month, the opening of the eyes and the appearance of the first hairs at two, the baptism at three. The event, a “naming ceremony” in keeping with Chinese tradition, resumed the “pandamania” in November with a selection of names and sponsors: soccer player Kylian Mbappe and Chinese Olympic diving champion Zhang Jiaqi. The public loved it, social media was overheated, and the event was covered by hundreds of journalists, the vast majority of them Chinese.

premium Naming ceremony: Kylian Mbappé is officially named the godfather of Youandudu, one of the panda twins born at the Beauval Zoo.

In the seventh month, namely March 11, the first departure. Again, not anyhow. “We carried them, then carefully laid them on the ground, and then left,” says Fabien Papuchon. They stayed at our feet, they were detained. Gradually they grew bolder. “They did not follow each other and each lived his life in an aviary. One tried the electric fence, the other ate grass, became interested in flowers. It’s all part of their training. »


Today, the caretakers’ role is to encourage the twins, “who for a long time only thought about sleeping,” to get out of their enclosure on their own. “First, because at 25kg it’s getting harder and harder to wear them. Then, because at their age they begin to have sacred claws. Finally, because they must learn to do it alone. Alone, but helped. Healers rely on the Ursids’ natural tendency to gluttony. Because even if milk weaning occurs between a year and a half and 2 years, the twins begin to diversify their diet.

“They start eating soft bamboo,” confirms Fabien Papuchon. Most of all they love honey. “To bring them out, we smear an ice cube or bamboo stick with honey and show them some milk to lure them. “Because getting out into the fresh air is necessary: ​​“They have to take in ultraviolet rays, they fix the bones on their bodies. And outdoor UV is different from greenhouse UV. The scheme is working. Every morning around 9:30 am, after Huang Huang, the mother, returns to her lodge to clean the large indoor enclosure and offer the first moment of play with shovels and broom brushes, the trainers prepare the bait and attract Huanlili and Yuandudu outside, where they play on terraces on stilts, feasting on honey and milk. “Milk is the reward of babies. For adults, it is an apple,” explains Fabien Papuchon.

Apple and Bamboo Ice Cream Cake

Then it’s mom’s turn. And other pandas. The father goes about his business, not paying attention to the offspring. He never participates in education. On the other hand, Lily and Dudu’s older brother, Yuan Meng, who was born in Beauval in 2017, sometimes comes to play with his sisters. Who are beginning to assert their character. “Dudu is temperamental and more reserved. She is also closer to her mother. Lily is very playful, especially with her mother,” notes Fabien Papuchon. As for Yuan Meng, the twins’ birthday will be celebrated on Tuesday with great pomp. In particular, with a frozen apple and a bamboo pie, which will be placed in the outer casing of the binoculars.
Panda in Beauval, it’s still a good life…

Arno Pasquier

(1) The first syllables of each name refer to the parents, Huan Huan, the mother, and Yuan Zi, the father. The remaining syllables symbolize the friendly relations between France and China, the rest – the fulfillment of desires for two babies.

(2) The panda was used as a diplomatic weapon by China when the animals thus arrived in the United States after Richard Nixon’s historic 1972 visit to China.


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