China, and special godmother, name France’s 1st baby panda

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BEAUVAL, France (AP) — France’s first baby panda has a name at last, bestowed Monday by Chinese dignitaries and French first lady Brigitte Macron: Yuan Meng, which fittingly means “the realization of a wish” or “accomplishment of a dream.”

The naming ceremony at the Beauval Zoo south of Paris was an important diplomatic moment, but the 4-month-old male cub decided otherwise, moving into attack mode with a growling sound and a jump when the French first lady put her hand over a glass wall to pet the cuddly-looking panda.

Yuan Meng’s parents are on loan to Beauval from China, and the cub will be sent to a Chinese panda reserve when it is weaned.

Tradition holds that panda cubs born in captivity are named by China. Brigitte Macron — considered the panda’s “godmother” — officially announced the name.

There are only about 1,800 pandas in the wild in China and about 400 in captivity worldwide.

Baptiste Mulot, chief veterinarian at the Beauval Zoo, said that Yuan Meng is now moving on all fours and “he’s starting to behave really like a child, so he tries to escape from where he’s supposed to be. He tries ... to go into the corridor.”

The cub was pink and hairless when born, weighing just 142 grams (five ounces), and he spent much of his first month in an incubator. Now, he weighs eight kilograms (almost 18 pounds), his young fur has the black patches pandas are known for and he nurses without a feeding bottle.

Nine-year-old mother Huan Huan was artificially inseminated from partner Yuan Zi this spring. Both are at Beauval on a 10-year loan from China, and their offspring officially belong to the Chinese government.