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French-born panda cub makes first public appearance

Guillaume Souvant, AFP | Panda cub Yuan Meng and its mother Huan Huan explore their new enclosure during the cub's first public appearance on January 13, 2018

Five months old and weighing in at 11 kilograms, France’s first giant panda cub, Yuan Meng, left his den on Saturday for his debut public appearance under the watchful eye of his mother.

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The small male cub, who is kept at the Beauval Zoo about 250 kilometres south of Paris, is the first surviving panda to have been born in France after coming into the world on Aug. 4. His twin-brother died barely two hours after birth.

In December, Yuan Meng was baptised in a ceremony attended by China’s Vice Foreign Minister Zhang Yesui and the tiny panda’s “Godmother”, France’s First Lady Brigitte Macron.

Yuan Meng means “Dream come true” and was chosen by China, the country of origin of the cub’s parents who are on a 10-year loan to France.

The arrival of the panda parents in France back in 2012 was billed in official circles as a sign of warming bilateral ties.

Mother Huan Huan and her partner Yuan Zi are due to return to China in 2022 while the young panda is expected to stay in France until the age of two or three.

While an adult female panda can weigh up to 125 kilograms, a baby panda often weighs as little as 120 grams at birth -- or 143 grams in this case. In the wild, pandas typically give birth to a single infant, born tiny, blind, pink and almost hairless.

France’s dealings with pandas -- vegetarian but nonetheless burly bears with big claws -- have not always been easy.

Former President Valery Gisgard d‘Estaing admitted decades after leaving office that a panda jumped on him when he entered its pen against zookeeper advice during a presidential visit to Vincennes Zoo, on the eastern edge of Paris.

(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS)

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