A French zoo has celebrated the survival of a panda cub, but mourned the loss of its weaker sibling. The panda parents are on loan from China, and the cub's godmother is a familiar face in French politics.
There were celebrations and tears on Friday at the Beauval Zoo southwest of Paris when its female panda Huan Huan gave birth to twins - with one surviving and one dying shortly after birth.
It was the country's first-ever live panda birth - an extraordinarily rare occasion due to the difficulty in breeding pandas - and panda birthing specialists from China were on hand to help with the birth.
But their efforts could not save the first cub, born at 20:18 GMT and weighing just 121 grams (4.2) ounces. Shortly after birth, the cub started having difficulty breathing, and it died shortly after.
"It was too weak to survive," zoo director Rodolphe Delord said. "The Chinese experts, who have experience of this, saw it straight away."
"Our veterinary teams did everything they could to save it, but it was too small, too weak," he added.
Mother Huan Huan also intuited the weakness of her first cub, abandoning it once its twin was born at 20:32 GMT. She turned her attention to the new cub, which weighed 142.4 grams and was in "perfect health," the zoo said.
If a female panda gives birth to twins in the wild, she usually abandons the weaker sibling, the zoo pointed out.
The surviving baby panda was placed in an incubator to receive veterinary attention. The zoo installed cameras to broadcast live images of the cub until it is old enough to make its debut.
Pandas are famous for their reproductive difficulties. A female panda is only in heat one time per year for around 48 hours.
Huan Huan, meaning "happy," was artificially inseminated by her partner Yuan Zi, meaning "chubby."
The pair has been on loan from China since 2012, following warming diplomatic relations and intense negotiations. They are set to stay in France until 2022, after which time they will return to China. Their offspring will also be returned to China.
Ealier in the week, the Beauval zoo's director of communication, Delphine de Lord, announced that French first lady Brigitte Macron would be the future godmother to the baby pandas.
However, China's first lady Peng Liyuan will choose the baby panda's name.
cmb/gsw (AFP, dpa, AP)