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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Spain thrown out of 2023 Rugby World Cup

Spain have been thrown out of the 2023 Rugby World Cup for fielding an ineligible South African-born player during the qualifying stages and will be replaced by Romania, World Rugby announced on Thursday.

Spain thrown out of 2023 Rugby World Cup

“Subject to Spain’s right of appeal, the 10-point deduction applied to the Rugby World Cup 2023 qualification table means that Romania will qualify as Europe 2 into Pool B replacing Spain,” read the statement.

Portugal — who Spain beat to seal their place in the global showpiece in France next year — replace Romania in the Final Qualification Tournament taking place in November 2022.

“Spain has a right of appeal within 14 days of the date of the full written decision of the committee,” read the statement.

According to Spanish media in March, the player under investigation was South African-born prop Gavin van den Berg, who has been playing in Spain since 2018.

He played twice against the Netherlands, in 2020 and 2021, in qualifiers, but he may not seemingly have served the three years of residency needed to become eligible under World Rugby rules.

Spain, Romania and Belgium were all sanctioned in 2018 for having fielded ineligible players, opening the way for Russia to qualify for the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan.