Bob, scarf, sweatshirt, pants and even shoes: from head to toe, white speckled with black, here is the Panda team! As a team, they’re a couple. Véronique and Patrice arrived from Bordeaux the day before. “To be sure to be there this morning at 9 am,” jubilates the 50-year-old. A small exclusivity offered to them by their premium card at Beauval zoo park, because other visitors only had access to the site at 10 a.m.
Agathe had also marked the date with a white stone. This Montpelliéraine took a day off and made seven hours of train just to see “in real life” Huanlili and Yuandudu, twin pandas of 7.4 kg each, born on August 2 last and which, this Saturday, carried out their very first public exit (behind a window).
Agathe, Véronique, Patrice and a handful of other fans of the mammal actually form a small community whose members meet regularly as soon as an Ailuropoda melanoleuca (giant panda) shows up, whether in France or elsewhere. . Belgium, China, Japan, Korea: “We meet everywhere and, by force, we sympathize”, smiles the Hérault, who, this weekend, will not even admire the elephants, giraffes and other hippos. “Today I will only see the pandas! ”
But, on this chilly Saturday in December, it was not just the fans who set sail for Saint-Aignan-sur-Cher. More than 2,000 people, including many families, had already cleared the entrance gates by midday. A remarkable attendance at this time of the year, but not so surprising when we know that the first weeks of the two newborns were followed “by hundreds of millions of people around the world on our social networks”, according to the president of the site, Rodolphe Delord, son of the founder Françoise Delord, who passed away on December 3.
This double birth is therefore not only exceptional from a strict zoological point of view (it is only the second in France), it is also a welcome breath of fresh air in economic terms for the park, which, like the the entire industry has suffered greatly from the long closures due to the Covid. Indeed, it should be remembered, the maintenance of animals (food, care …) is a daily concern: “Here, the minimum costs amount to 100,000 euros per day”, calculates Rodolphe Delord. Therefore, getting visitors to (re) come is a vital issue, and all means are good for this, up to the choice of sponsors. So Kylian Mbappé was present on November 18, at an official ceremony, alongside Zhang Jiaqi, Chinese Olympic diving gold medalist, symbolizing the link between two countries and two cultures.
The arrival of these binoculars is also ultimately a real diplomatic event, widely reported by many media in the Middle Kingdom, which also specially seconded for six months two care givers from the research base on the panda of Chengdu to support French veterinarians.