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First panda born in France pampered after twin dies

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Huan Huan aafter the birth of her cubs at Beauval zoo AFP/Screengrab

France's first-ever baby panda is in good health and being suckled by his mother, the zoo in Beauval, central France, where he was born said on Saturday. His twin died within an hour of being born.


"The first week is the most difficult because he is still very delicate," the zoo's chief vet, Baptiste Mulot, warned the day after the birth of the male cub, provisionally named Mini-Yuan Zi after his father.

Another cub, born just before Mini-Yuan Zi at 10.18pm local time on Friday, died shortly afterwards, despite the zoo staff's efforts to keep it alive.

Two experts from the Chengdu panda reproduction centre in south-east China have been sent to France for six months to help care for Mini-Yuan Zi, a task not made any easier by the fact that his mother, Huan Huan, is very protective.

They have to weigh him, clean him - which Huan Huan is not yet used to doing - and feed him extra milk that the Chinese carers have brought with them.

A screen capture shows the first feeding of Mini-Yuan Zi AFP

Panda protocol

Only 22 zoos outside China have pandas.

Huan Huan and Yuan Zi were loaned to France for 10 years after then president Nicolas Sarkozy made a personal request to his Chinese counterpart Hu Jintao, as required by protocol.

Current French President Emmanuel Macron's wife, Brigitte, is expected to become Mini-Yuan Zi's godmother.

Visitors to the Beauval zoo will not be able to see the cub for three months, as his eyes open and fur grows and he becomes stronger.

Meanwhile, a film of the story of Huan Huan, Yuan Zi and their cub is being shown on giant screens there.

Giant pandas on are on the International Union for Conservation of Nature's most endangered species list.

They are famously reluctant to breed in captivity.