Yuan Meng, the first panda born in France, left the Beauval zoo on Tuesday, July 25. The animal is heading to China, a long-planned transfer for the sake of the future of the species.
Beauval zoo says goodbye to one of these stars. The panda Yuan Meng, the first of its species to be born in France, leaves the park and flies to China on Tuesday July 25. The farewells were heartbreaking for the visitors who came to see the black and white bear one last time. It must be said that since its birth in August 2017 in Saint-Aignan, in the Loir-et-Cher, the panda has been the mascot of the park and seeing it has until now been the objective of most visitors.
But this departure should not hurt the French. In addition to being planned since birth, Yuan Meng's trip to China is beneficial for the protection of the species. And to those who regret not being able to see the panda anymore, Chinese Ambassador to France Lu Shaye said from Beauval Zoo: "Don't be sad, we still have four and I hope maybe be in a year, two or three years, there will be even more new pandas."
All the pandas of the Beauval zoo if they live in France still belong to China. And this partnership between the two countries means that the pandas born in the animal park must one day or another fly to the Middle Country. Besides diplomatic agreements, the future of the species also justifies the transfer of the panda.
For the six-year-old panda, "it's time [to return] to China to be able to reproduce with a female who has no relationship with him", explained the CEO of the Beauval zoo, Rodolphe Delord adding that "what matters most to us is the conservation of the species, it is the genetic diversity".
If the departure of the panda of which Brigitte Macron is the godmother is difficult for the staff of the park, the caretaker of the bear, Delphine Pouvreau, is not worried about the care that will be provided to him in China. "He's still going back to the panda kingdom. The Chinese are panda specialists, they're the ones who really taught us this craft. So of course he's going to be disturbed, but in the end it's going to be good also for him“, she confided to BFMTV.
The Beauval zoo welcomed the panda longer than expected. Born in 2017, Yuan Meng was initially supposed to stay for the first years of his life before being transferred to China between 2021. "He should have already left, but it was not possible because of the Covid", explained Rodolphe Delord at Berry Republican. The French were therefore able to take advantage of the panda star a little more, but the time for departure has arrived. Although it was again postponed for three weeks due to the "delay in certain administrative documents", the management of the Beauval zoo had indicated in early July.
Panda Yuan Meng's journey from France to China has been planned down to the smallest detail. The animal left the park where it was born and spent its entire life around the stroke of 9 o'clock. Accompanied by his caretaker and a veterinarian from the Beauval zoo, the panda travels in a transport crate designed especially for him and with which he has become familiar with in recent days. Yuan Meng would not have been reluctant to take his place in his habitat for the next few hours at the time of departure, according to the details of Rodolphe Delord at BFMTV.
Escorted by the gendarmerie to Roissy Charles de Gaulle airport, the panda was placed on an Air China charter plane around 4 p.m. The carer and the veterinarian who form the panda's close guard will be at his side throughout the flight, from Paris to the breeding base in Chengdu. Note that the animal is not sedated for the trip, its companions will take care of reassuring it.
Once there, the panda Yuan Meng will need a period of acclimatization: "We isolate it, we examine it and we impose a quarantine on it if necessary for potential illnesses", explains Laurence Paoli, founder of Unlimited Nature, at BFMTV. He should then integrate the park in semi-freedom of Chengdu and gradually meet his congeners, in particular the female with whom he will mate. In addition to a new setting and new panda companions, Yuan Meng will meet his new healers, but the management of Beauval is confident that his protege will be treated well, "the real difference is that now the healers will talk to him in Chinese" laughs even Rodolphe Delord.
Despite the departure of Yuan Meng, four pandas remain residents of Beauval. His parents first: the female Huan Huan and the male Yuan Zi, both of whom have been present at the park since 2012. But also the two youngest of the giant panda family, the twins Huanlili and Yuandudu, whose birth in August 2021 created the event.
The couple of adult pandas were originally supposed to stay in France for ten years, but their stay in Beauval has been extended by five years. They will therefore be visible at least until 2027 and the CEO of the zoological park hopes that the partnership with China will further extend the duration of the stay of bears in France. On the other hand, the little twins will, like their brother, have to fly to China in the coming years. "Normally, we keep babies until they are four years old," said Rodolphe Delord, still at Berry Républicain, which presages a departure from the panda sisters in 2025.