To bring giant pandas to ZooParc de Beauval is an extraordinary event indeed! The giant panda is extremely difficult to care for and is also threatened with extinction in the wild. For these reasons it has been included in many research and protection programs. In the 1970s and 80s, several zoos housed pandas that had been offered to them as diplomatic gifts. During the last 30 years or so, pandas have very rarely been placed in foreign parks by the Chinese government. For pandas to be housed in another country, an agreement must be made at the highest level of state… an agreement between Presidents!
Being a ‘Chinese national treasure’, the giant panda represents a strong symbol of the friendship between China and the countries that house them. The zoos that house pandas also take part in the conservation of this species in China, in particular through work with the panda research centres of Wolong and Chengdu, in the Sichuan province.
Only 14 zoos worldwide house giant pandas. About a thousand giant pandas live within protected wildlife reserves in China, such as the Chengdu base, from which the Beauval pandas originate. Outside China, only 13 institutions house pandas, (4 in the United States, 1 in Mexico, 1 in Australia, and 4 in Asia), of which only 3 are European (Vienna, Madrid and Edinburgh). The ZooParc de Beauval thus becomes the only park in France to house giant pandas!
The international transfer of pandas seems to be of the utmost importance for the conservation of this seriously endangered species. Indeed, the presence of pandas in zoos around the world, allows such zoos to help the Chinese institutions which work so hard to conserve these animals.