The “Panda-monium” continues as France’s first Giant Panda baby grows up at Zoo de Beauval.
Born on August 4, the little Panda is now three months old, has opened his eyes, and sports a fluffy black-and-white coat. Photo Credit: Zoo de Beauval
Temporarily named Mini Yuan Zi after his father, Yuan Zi, the little Panda has captured the hearts of fans around the world. In keeping with Chinese tradition, the baby will receive his official name when he turns 100 days old.
ZooBorns first reported on Mini Yuan Zi’s birth here, including a dramatic video of the cub’s delivery. The zoo shares weekly updates on the baby’s weight. As of November 3, he weighed nearly 12 pounds – right on target for healthy development.
Mini Yuan Zi spends most of his time with his mother, Huan Huan. Keepers occasionally remove the baby from Huan Huan to weigh him and perform a health check. These brief periods of “alone time” give Huan Huan a chance to eat and rest away from the demands of her baby. When mom and baby are together, Huan Huan holds Mini Yuan Zi close and keeps him warm.
Breeding Giant Pandas is a complex endeavor, and timing is crucial. Adults are solitary, and females come into heat only once per year for 24-48 hours. After three unsuccessful breeding seasons, staff at Zoo de Beauval opted to use artificial insemination. The process worked, and Mini Yuan Zi was born.
The long-awaited birth of a precious Giant Panda cub at Zoo de Beauval, the first to be born in France, occurred on August 4 under the close scrutiny of zoo staff and their Chinese counterparts.
Now just over one week old, the male cub, affectionately called Mini Yuan Zi after his father, Yuan Zi, is gradually gaining weight as his mother, Huan Huan, learns to care for him. Pandas typically receive their official name on their 100th day, following Chinese tradition.
Photo Credit: Eric Baccega (3,6); ZooParc de Beauval (1,2,4,6)
Newborn Giant Pandas are extremely weak and vulnerable, weighing less than a quarter of a pound (120 grams) at birth. For the first week of Mini Yuan Zi’s life, zoo staff supplemented him with bottle feedings. They also placed Mini Yuan Zi in an incubator between feedings to keep him warm because Huan Huan, a first-time mom, was not yet adept at nursing him or holding him. The staff has now discontinued bottle feedings as the cub and Huan Huan have successfully bonded.
Mini Yuan Zi was one of two infants born to Huan Huan. The second baby was very weak and despite the intensive efforts of the staff, did not survive its first day. In the wild, twins are born in about half of all Giant Panda pregnancies, and the mother typically cares only for the strongest infant.
The zoo has been working for years to reach this moment. Huan Huan and Yuan Zi were very young when first introduced in 2014. Female Pandas go into heat only once per year, for just 24 to 48 hours, meaning there is just one opportunity per year for them to mate. Huan Huan did not go into heat in 2015, and no mating occurred in 2016. In 2017, the two adults showed great interest in each other but did not successfully mate. That’s when the zoo team decided to try artificial insemination, and it worked!
Giant Pandas are pregnant for three to four months. Urine analyses, which measure hormone levels, were used to pinpoint the date of Mini Yuan Zi’s birth.
For now, Mini Yuan Zi will remain behind the scenes with his mother. In a few months, zoo visitors will be able to glimpse him in a special viewing area.
Giant Pandas are found only in a few areas in central China – a fraction of their original range – where they feed on bamboo in cool mountain forests. Fewer than 2,000 Giant Pandas live in the wild, and another 400 live in zoos and breeding centers. For many years, Giant Pandas were classified as Endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). In 2016, they were downlisted to Vulnerable, a reflection of the intense conservation efforts underway in China. The program to save the Giant Panda is regarded as one of the most intensive, high-profile efforts ever undertaken to save an endangered species.
All Giant Pandas living in zoos belong to China and are merely loaned to the zoo. The young eventually return to China and are introduced into the breeding program.
The Beauval Zoo in France was thrilled to welcome Mbuti, the first Okapi born in France since 1988. Mbuti was born on June 27th to mother Kamina. Both are thriving, and Mbuti has since taken her first steps.
Okapi are a unique mammal native to the Ituri Rainforest, located in Central Africa. Though the animal bears stripes resembling those of a Zebra, it is far more closely related to the Giraffe. The species was unknown to the western world until the 20th century. Though the species is not Endangered, it remains Threatened due to habitat loss and poaching.
On March 24th, Beauval Zoo in France welcomed three new rare Jaguar cubs. One of the cubs is a spotted Jaguar while the other two are, like their mother, melanistic Jaguars, often referred to as a black panthers. This variation in color is a genetic trait that is found in approximately six percent of the wild population. The exact mechanisms of the inheritance of the variation are still not understood.
As the cubs remain with their mother in their den, this is the only photo of the trio so far. Stay tuned for more once these rare cats begin to venture out of their den and explore their habitat.
This little Tree Kangaroo Joey has been getting a glimpse of the world for a few weeks now, much to the delight of all at Beauval Zoo. Among the 4600 animals at the zoo, there are many species that
are rare, threatened, or unique in France. Their Tree
Kangaroos are one, and Mom Ruby can be seen on exhibit with the little reddish-brown head -- and sometimes a pair of paws -- of her look-alike baby sticking out of her pouch.
Tree Kangaroos are marsupials like koalas, but are very different from their terrestrial cousins. Kangaroo joeys are born roughly the size of a lima bean and crawl from the birth canal to the warmth and safety of their mother's pouch. There they lock on to a teat and spend an average of between six to eight months growing, until one day their little noses peek out into the world. It's thought this baby began that process in late January. He is the only joey of his kind born in 2012, giving hope to this species which is
threatened in the wild.
In late July, ZooParc de Beauval welcomed France's first ever African Elephant to be born using artificial insemination. The baby is the only African Elephant to be born in 2012 in Europe. After a 23 month gestation period and only about an hour of labor, mother N'Dala gave birth to a 340-pound 3-foot-tall bundle of joy. As N'Dala had never given birth before, keepers watched with bated breath to see in she would accept her offspring and nurse him. It is not uncommon for a first time mother to reject her baby in the wild, and keepers gave N'Dala plenty of space in the hopes that her natural instincts would kick in.
Named after a South African Volcano, baby Rungwe recently went on exhibit at the ZooParc by his mother's side. Keepers are delighted about the successful birth and N'Dala has been an exemplary mother so far. The successful artificial insemination gives new hope to this iconic species that has had relatively few births in Zoological institutions. Look beneath the fold to see images of Rungwe and N'Dala exploring their exhibit.
Something wonderful happened at France's Zoo Parc de Beauval in the middle of the night on Sunday, October 16... a White Rhino was born. The baby, a male, weighed about 176 pounds (80 kg) and the report is that he and Satara, his mother, are doing well -- so well in fact that he is already on view through a huge window in the Rhino house.
For now he is sticking close to mom and can be seen nursing. But in a few weeks, he will go out with his mother into the habitat to join the 70 other animals that inhabit the sizeable area, including Wildebeest, Giraffes, and Zebras. His horn will begin to grow when he is 3-4 months old.
This is the second male White Rhino born at the zoo -- the first, Kanty, was born in Novmeber of 2009. The White Rhino is particularly endangered due to poaching for the purported value of their horns. Rare in the wild, the White Rhino has an EEP (European Breeding Program) to encourage reproduction, which has proven difficult at zoos.
Though not a traditional time of year for manatee births, Zoo Parc de Beauval in France welcomed a manatee calf yesterday! The little one has been seen suckling and swimming near mom in its first 24 hours.
Manatees are born underwater and mom helps the calf get to the surface to take its first breath. The babies can usually swim on their own within the first hour after birth. While they only nurse as calves, they will grow to become hearty grazers...eating up to a tenth of their weight in algae, weeds and grasses in a single day!
Sometimes called sea cows, manatees are actually graceful swimmers despite their size. They never leave the water but need to come to the surface to breathe like all marine mammals. Often the only thing visible at the surface of the water is their nose, but below, their powerful tails can propel them along at 5 mph (8 kmph).
There are three species of this highly endangered animal, and they each live in different areas – one in the Amazon River, another along the west coast and rivers of Africa, and a third along the east coast of North America. Beauval Zoo is the only Zoo in France to have a manatee, which was born as part of as the European breeding program for this species (EEP).
Excitement is in the air at Beauval Zoo, as France's newest little Koala joey, Eora, has just fully emerged from her mother's pouch. Named after the aboriginal word for "here" the tiny Joey was only 2 cm long when she was born in late May. Koala joeys typically spend the first six to eight months of life hidden safely inside their mother's pouch. While Eora may have outgrown the cozy pouch, she's definitely not too old for piggy-back rides! In the wild, Koala's are threatened by human encroachment, which carves up their range into tiny parcels and increases the threats of fire and attacks by domestic animals.