Twin pandas born in French zoo given star treatment in naming ceremony

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Twin panda cubs born in France's Beauval zoo have been named Yuandudu and Huanlili at a ceremony attended by their 'godfather' – football star Kylian Mbappe.

The naming of baby pandas is traditionally the prerogative of China's First Lady, but this time Peng Liyuan gave the job to the French public.

"More than 122,000 French people connected to our website to choose the names, Yuandudu and Huanlili, from a number of options, said zoo director Delphine Delord. They translate as 'cotton flower' and 'little snow'.

Paris Saint-Germain star Mbappe and Chinese Olympic diving gold medallist Zhang Jiaqi, the 'godmother', were both at Thursday's event and unveiled a commemorative plaque to mark the occasion.

"It's a great honour to be here 100 days after the birth of our two wonders," Mbappe told the guests at the naming ceremony.

"It's an honour but also a responsibility because, behind it, there is the project to protect this endangered species," he added.

Getting in the mood

While the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) removed pandas from the red list of endangered species in 2016, only around 2,000 pandas remain alive in the wild in China.

Reproduction is therefore crucial, but whether in captivity or indeed in the wild it remains notoriously difficult.

Experts say few pandas get in the mood or even know what to do when they do.

An added challenge is that the window for conception is small since female pandas are in heat only once a year for about 24-48 hours.

Beauval is one of only 23 zoos in the world to have pandas outside China.

Hopes for healthy growth

The two female cubs are the offspring of Yuan Zi and Huan Huan who were loaned to France by China a decade ago.

The panda parents also had twins back in 2017, but only one survived.

"The names Yuandudu and Huanlili are inspired by their parents' names, Yuan Zi and Huan Huan. They evoke the wish for healthy growth for the babies and symbolise the deep ties between China and France," said Delord.

(with AFP)

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