The first giant panda born in France received an emotional send-off on Tuesday as he left his French zoo before a long journey back to his ancestral home in China.
Yuan Meng, who was born in 2017 at the Beauval zoo in the Loire region of France, was cheered on by visitors and zoo staff as he was driven under police escort to Charles de Gaulle airport during a 12-hour China Airlines flight to the city of Chengdu in China.
Trained for several days to comfortably prepare for the trip, the son of Yuan Zi and Huan Huan—the first pandas France loaned to Chinese authorities in 2012—showed little hesitation in climbing into his special bamboo-filled cage for his trip.
“Everything is fine. He said goodbye to his parents and his sisters, with tears in the eyes of his keepers,” said Rodolphe Delord, head of the zoo.
“He can go on with his good life. It’s inevitable that it’s an emotional moment, but all our animals born here are forced to leave one day. We’re used to that,” he added.
Hundreds of black and white bear fans braved the morning rain to say goodbye to the beautiful ursine.
“Unfortunately, we are attached to the pandas. But we know that he is better off there, for the good of the species,” said Caroline Bernard.
Her daughter Lilou, nine, isn’t doing so well.
“I’m crying, I’m sad that he’s leaving. But I’m trying to tell myself that he’s better off there. It’s for his own good,” she said, her eyes red with tears.
In Chengdu, the panda will be transferred to a panda reproduction center, with the work of helping to preserve its species.
China has long deployed so-called panda diplomacy with friends and even enemies from the US to Taiwan, giving the animals to various countries, often to further foreign policy goals.
Beijing only loans the pandas to foreign zoos, which usually return any cubs within a few years of their birth to participate in the country’s breeding program.
There are approximately 1,860 giant pandas left in the wild, mainly in the bamboo forests of China’s mountains, according to the environmental group WWF.
There are about 600 in captivity in panda centers, zoos and wildlife parks around the world.
© 2023 AFP
Citation: Fond farewell as first panda born in France heads to China (2023, July 25) retrieved on July 25, 2023 from https://phys.org/news/2023-07-fond-farewell-france-born-panda-china.html
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