Nine hours twenty pairs of eyes scrutinized the impending event.
But it is with a cry, a strident and continuous squealing, that life burst, at 1:03 this Sunday (August 2), at the bottom of the “pandas corridor” of the Beauval zoo (Loir-et-Cher).
Huan Huan, the emblematic female of the zoo, has given birth to two babies.
In a flash, the mother raised the two tiny bodies to her mouth, to warm them with her breath, then under the fur of her paws, in front of humans in awe of emotion.
149 g and 129g. "Two healthy babies both ... or rather both: they are girls, they are pink, lively, and know how to be heard by mom", announces Baptiste Mulot, the head veterinarian, with a smile on the corner of eyes. “A huge relief! »For Rodolphe Delord, the director of the park. The image of the fragile legs wriggling in the hollow of their mother's powerful jaw marked the end of an incredible wait, which began on Thursday evening.
Huan Huan had fallen into a deep lethargy as she approached giving birth.
Even the first quality bamboo, of which she eats 20 kg every day in normal times, no longer aroused her interest.
On the side or on the back, the furry star was snoozing in her dressing room, away from visitors, but filmed 24 hours a day by a caring team.
In the park, the most connected alpaca employees, in blue uniforms: "So these babies, are they coming soon?"
"She is in terrible pain"
At 4:45 p.m. Sunday, the long-awaited information finally falls. The panda has stopped doing the starfish on the tiles. "She's having contractions!" She lost some cash! The beast sits in a corner, shortness of breath, legs spread. She scratches herself, licks herself, chatters her teeth in pain. The discomfort drives her around in circles. Veterinarians, management, healers come with long strides in front of the screens. It looks like supporters on a final day. Two Chinese carers, dispatched especially for the occasion, are in the front row, in blouses and charlottes.
The hairball curls up.
It looks like a huge ball of wool, black and beige.
Soon the big black paw grips the soft green bars.
Its claws recall its strength, proportional to its 100 kg.
Rodolphe Delord, mist on his rectangular glasses: “She is in terrible pain.
I do not know of another animal so exhausted, for weeks, before giving birth to babies so small.
Everything is exceptional in the reproduction of pandas, this species with lazy sexuality, and often unsuccessful.
After the insemination, carried out on March 20, the caregivers waited three months before being able to hope for a birth.
“We invested a lot,” says Lucie, one of the vets in charge of ultrasound scans.
We saw the babies move, now we want to see them outside!
" And in good health.
“Come on, choupette!
»Encourages a« Beauvalienne ».
Emotions run through the screen room, in turn.
The excitement, the anxiety, the joy of being there, then the boredom that stirs up laughter as the zoo sinks into the night.
Just when no one expects it, at 1:03 a.m., a pink spot appears on the screen, climbing over Huan Huan's dark fur.
The team is exulting.
" Yes Yes Yes !
She has it in her mouth!
"A good mother"
In the natural environment, only one of the two newborns survives, the mother taking care of only the stronger.
At the zoo, the keepers have planned two incubators, to keep the future mascots warm, alternating with their mother.
It remains for the Chinese caretakers to quickly remove the binoculars from the jealous attention of their mother, the time to provide them with first aid.
For six months, the babies will be under the constant supervision of the caregivers.
The first ten days promise to be crucial.
"They will be fragile, immunocompromised, much more than other species," notes veterinarian Lucie.
If the giraffes run just after the fall of 2 meters which serves as their entry into life, the pandas are fragile, sickly, blind and naked beings, unable to move.
It is almost 4 o'clock, the day will break on a Huan Huan breastfeeding her twins, with the assistant of the groomer, who strokes her coat, speaks to her in Chinese, even… "in a panda".
It imitates the high-pitched cries of newborn babies.
“It's a beautiful birth, appreciates Baptiste Delord.
In 2017, when she gave birth for the first time, she was quite clumsy.
There, Huan Huan has the reflexes of a good mother.
Pandas, Johnny: same fight
Delphine Delord, the deputy director, already imagines the newborns "in two or three months: two hairballs playing together ..." Behind her, the little hands of the com'preparing a giant announcement: a shower of messages on social networks, with their share of cute images.
A master stroke in the art of reproduction of species in captivity, this birth is also a tremendous spotlight on the Beauval company.
The hypermedia arrival of Huan Huan and his male companion Yuan Zi, in 2012, had boosted the site's attendance from 700,000 to over a million visitors in one season.
Nine years later, and the birth of a first baby, Yuan Meng, on August 4, 2017, the craze for cuddly toys continues unabated.
“Pandas are like Johnny Hallyday: there are absolute fans!
»Notes, a bit taken aback, Delphine Pouvreau, one of the heads of the zoo.
The converse is not true.
"It is a rather cute animal, very intelligent, but it must be noted that it has nothing to do with us humans", notes Baptiste Mulot.
But in the collective imagination, the animal's pointed canines seem as if they were filed down, by the two drops of black water that surround its moist eyes.
The round silhouette, which serves as a mascot for the NGO WWF, is a walking symbol of endangered nature.
"It's an umbrella species," adds Rodolphe Delord, the director.
By protecting pandas, we save a whole fauna and biodiversity.
If the twins develop well, they will experience the joy of having godparents (not yet disclosed), and a name, given on their hundredth day of life, according to Chinese tradition. The zoo can boast of presenting to the public no less than five pandas. The family will not stay together for long. The living stuffed animals are "loans" from China, and Yuan Meng, the eldest sponsored by Brigitte Macron, should fly in a few months, to the Middle Empire.