Delighted French zoo officials were bursting with joy Wednesday at the news their female panda is pregnant – a first for France.
A scan by zoo vets on Wednesday uncovered that Huan Huan, on loan to Beauval zoo in central France from China along with her male partner Yuan Zi, is expecting her first cub.
“It’s exceptional. We simply exploded in joy as we’ve been waiting a long time this moment,” the zoo’s communications director Delphine Delord told to a news agency.
“It additionally gives us hope for the conservation of pandas, which in nature are in peril of extinction.”
The nine-year-old pandas are the only giant pandas living in France, and they landed in Beauval in 2012 after intense, high-level negotiations between Paris and Beijing.
Just 19 zoos around the globe, outside China, have been permitted to house pandas.
But breeding pandas, in captivity or in the wild, in notoriously difficult. The female panda is just on heat once per year for around 48 hours.
Huan Huan and her lover were united in February, with the hope they would mate, yet it didn’t occur, said Ms Delord.
“So we did an artificial insemination,” she added.
Since a panda’s gestation period is just 50 days, the baby cub is presently due on either August 4 or 5, likely weighing in at around only 100 grams.
If all goes well with the pregnancy and birth, the cub will leave Beauval in the next few years to be returned to China.
A year ago, zoo officials had been bitterly disappointed when Huan Huan had a fake pregnancy, a fairly common occurrence among female pandas.