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First panda cub born in France gets name, blessing
Last Updated: 2017-12-05 10:54 | Xinhua
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FRANCE-SAINT-AIGNAN-PANDA BABY-NAMING CEREMONY-YUAN MENG

Brigitte Macron (4th L), wife of French President Emmanuel Macron, Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Zhang Yesui (1st R), Former French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin (2nd R) and Chinese Ambassador to France Zhai Jun (1st L, Rear) pose for photos during a naming ceremony of a panda baby in Saint-Aignan, France, on Dec. 4, 2017. Brigitte Macron, wife of French President Emmanuel Macron, revealed the name of the panda baby, the first-ever cub born in the country, at a naming ceremony at a zoo in central France on Monday. Joined by Chinese officials, Brigitte Macron, who is also the new panda's godmother, announced that the four-month-old cub's name was Yuan Meng. (Xinhua/Chen Yichen)

"Yuan Meng, what a pretty name!" Elyssa, a seven-year-old French girl with a cute panda's hat on her head, repeatedly practiced the pronunciation of Yuan Meng, the official name of the first-ever panda born in France.

Bursting with happiness, France's First Lady Brigitte Macron, Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Zhang Yesui, Chinese Ambassador to France Zhai Jun, and thousands of others from all walks of life in France, attended the panda cub's naming ceremony on Monday in the Beauval Zoo in Saint-Aignan, central France.

The four-month-old panda was named Yuan Meng, which carries the beautiful meaning of "fulfilling the dream," from his godmother, Brigitte Macron, along with the blessing of the Chinese First Lady Peng Liyuan.

In a congratulatory message, Peng said that she was pleased to select the name together with Brigitte and that the name carries the people's best wishes for the panda cub.

Pointing out that the panda is not only a national treasure of China but also an envoy and witness of the China-France friendship, Peng said Yuan Meng's birth embodies the bright future of bilateral relations, which is entering a new phase of development.

She wished that the cub will grow up healthy and strong and bring more happiness to the French people, especially the children.

Brigitte Macron thanked China for entrusting such a precious panda to France in her speech.

"Yuan Meng and his parents are the illustration of a dialogue that has always been fruitful between our two countries, who, for centuries, have understood and got along with each other," she noted, encouraging people to observe and feel the unique tranquil power of the lovely pandas.

Yuan Meng used to be referred to as "Mini Yuan Zi" after his father, Yuan Zi, who was on loan to France from China with his female partner, Huan Huan, in January 2012.

On Aug. 4 this year, Huan Huan gave birth to two cubs at an interval of 14 minutes. As a common practice in the wild, female pandas raise only one cub which has the most chances of survival.

Huan Huan took care of the first cub immediately after its birth, but after the second cub was born, she chose the second one and abandoned the first, which was put immediately to the incubator but was announced dead shortly.

Despite the sad news, the birth of the second baby panda still brought enormous joy and cheer across the nation. Some 26 million people have viewed the video of the new born cub at the zoo's page of Facebook, which raised a new panda mania in France.

"Today's naming ceremony is exactly the time of "Yuan Meng" (fulfilling our dreams)," Beauval Zoo Director Rodolphe Delord said in his speech with excitement.

"We've been waiting so long for Yuan Meng, the first-ever panda born here in France. Its birth, an incredible project the zoo has completed, also came as a potent symbol of the solid friendship between the two countries," he added.

After the ceremony, the guests were given a chance to catch a glimpse of the cute little baby panda through a glass wall. Under its breeders' care, Yuan Meng appeared fit and healthy, with a weight increase from 142g at his birth till 7kg today.

The adorable cub lay lazily on the ground, with the occasional movement which captivated the audience while melting their hearts. Children who were there to witness this squealed in excitement, while others held their breath in awe at their first encounter with the little baby.

"I've got an annual ticket to the zoo. I've seen pandas countless times, but today is my first time seeing a panda cub, which is really cute and adorable! I've gotta take some photos for my family!" a local citizen Thoma told Xinhua reporters.

Huan Huan and Yuan Zi first arrived in France in 2012 under a 10-year conservation and research program, and the number of visitors to the Beauval Zoo saw an increase from 600 thousand in 2011 to 1 million in 2012.

This year, Yuan Meng's birth has attracted 1.5 million visitors to the zoo, which not only highlighted the France's insatiable affection for pandas, but also brought more hopes and opportunities for the conservation of biological diversity, Rodolphe Delord noted.

The birth of Yuan Meng has undoubtedly helped popularize the zoo, with even more visitors expected to arrive after the cub is able to meet the public, said Delphine Delord, communications director of the Beauval Zoo.

Huan Huan meaning "joy" and Yuan Zi meaning "chubby", are due to return to China in 2022. Their new born baby, who can be seen by visitors of the zoo as from Jan. 13, will stay in France until the age of two or three.

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