French zoo’s baby pandas get football star godfather: Kylian Mbappé

100 days since their birth in a French zoo, Yuandudu and Huanlili now weigh 5.5 kg each. Footballer Kylian Mbappé is proud to have been named as their godfather.

French football star Kylian Mbappé is proud godfather to these two baby pandas.
French football star Kylian Mbappé is proud godfather to these two baby pandas. (Photo by GUILLAUME SOUVANT / AFP)

Twin panda cubs born in a French zoo were on Thursday named Yuandudu and Huanlili at a ceremony attended by football star Kylian Mbappe, who has been named the animals’ ‘godfather’.

Paris Saint-Germain star and France Mbappe and Chinese Olympic diving gold medallist Zhang Jiaqi, the ‘godmother’, were both at the event at the Beauval zoo in Saint-Aignan, central France.

The naming of baby pandas is traditionally the prerogative of China’s First Lady, but this time Peng Liyuan gave the job to the French public.

IN PICTURES: Panda in French zoo gives birth to twins

“More than 122,000 French people connected to our website to choose the names, Yuandudu and Huanlili,” from a number of options, zoo director Delphine Delord said.

Mbappe and Zhang unveiled a commemorative plaque to mark the occasion.

“It’s a great honour to be here 100 days after the birth of our two wonders,” Mbappe told the guests at the naming ceremony.

“It’s an honour but also a responsibility because, behind it, there is the project to protect this endangered species,” he added.

Panda reproduction, in captivity or in the wild, is notoriously difficult as experts say few pandas get in the mood or even know what to do when they do.

The two pandas, born back in August, way 5.5kg each.
It is unclear if Mbappé will play a hands-on role as godfather. (Photo by GUILLAUME SOUVANT / AFP)

Further complicating matters, the window for conception is small since female pandas are in heat only once a year for about 24-48 hours.

Only around 2,000 pandas remain alive in the wild in China, although the International Union for the Conservation of Natur (IUCN) removed them from the red list of endangered species in 2016.

The Beauval cubs, born on August 2 and both females, are the offspring of Yuan Zi and Huan Huan who were loaned to France by China a decade ago.

READ ALSO French zoo captures runaway red panda

The panda parents also had twins back in 2017, but only one survived.

“The names Yuandudu and Huanlili are inspired by their parents’ names, Yuan Zi and Huan Huan. They evoke the wish for healthy growth for the babies and symbolise the deep ties between China and France,” said Delord.

Forty-five percent of the online votes were for those names, she added.

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Green Party leader: ‘Right-wing parties want to push us out of parliament’

Per Bolund, joint leader of Sweden's Green party, spoke for thirteen and a half minutes at Almedalen before he mentioned the environment, climate, or fossil fuels, in a speech that began by dwelling on healthcare, women's rights, and welfare, before returning to the party's core issue.

Green Party leader: 'Right-wing parties want to push us out of parliament'

After an introduction by his joint leader Märta Stenevi, Bolund declared that his party was going into the election campaign on a promise “to further strengthen welfare, with more staff and better working conditions in healthcare, and school without profit-making, where the money goes to the pupils and not to dividends for shareholders”. 

Only then did he mention the party’s efforts when in government to “build the world’s first fossil-free welfare state”. 

“We know that if we want welfare to work in the future, we must have an answer to our time’s biggest crisis: the threat to the environment and the climate,” he said.

“We know that there is no welfare on a dead planet. We need to take our society into a new time, where we end our dependency on oil, meet the threat to the climate, and build a better welfare state within nature’s boundaries, what we call a new, green folkhem [people’s home].” 

He presented green policies as something that makes cities more liveable, with the new sommargågator — streets pedestrianised in the summer — showing how much more pleasant a life less dependent on cars might be.  

He then said his party wanted Sweden to invest 100 billion kronor a year on speeding up the green transition, to make Sweden fossil fuel-free by 2030. 

“We talk about the climate threat because it’s humanity’s biggest challenge, our biggest crisis,” he said. “And because we don’t have much time.” 

In the second half of his speech, however, Bolund used more traditional green party rhetoric, accusing the other political parties in Sweden of always putting off necessary green measures, because they do not seem urgent now, like a middle-aged person forgetting to exercise. 

“We know that we need to cut emissions radically if we are even going to have a chance of meeting our climate goal, but for all the other parties there’s always a reason to delay,” he said. 

“We are now seeing the curtain go up on the backlash in climate politics in Sweden. All the parties have now chosen to slash the biofuels blending mandate which means that we reduce emissions from petrol and diesel step for step, so you automatically fill your tank in a greener way. Just the government’s decision to pause the  reduction mandate will increase emissions by a million tonnes next year.” 

The right-wing parties, he warned, were also in this election running a relentless campaign against the green party. 

“The rightwing parties seem to have given up trying to win the election on their own policies,” he said. “Trying to systematically push out of parliament seems to be their way of trying to take power. And they don’t seem above any means. Slander campaigns, lies, and false information have become every day in Swedish right-wing politics.” 

He ended the speech with an upbeat note. 

“A better, more sustainable world is possible. There is a future to long for. If you give us a chance then that future is much closer than you think!”

Read the speech here in Swedish and here in (Google Translated) English.