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OFFBEAT

France panda loan foiled by Greek crisis

China has had to delay the loan of two pandas to France because the Greek debt crisis dominated the G20 summit when they hoped to finalise details, French Ecology Minister Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet said on Monday.

France panda loan foiled by Greek crisis
Chi King (File)

“Things were very far advanced. Unfortunately because of the Greek crisis, the sovereign debt crisis, the emergency G20 summit, there was no time for the final discussion between President Hu Jintao and President (Nicolas) Sarkozy,” she said.

The pandas are destined for the Beauval zoo in central France.

“I hope we can finalise things by letter in the coming weeks,” she said, adding that “the couple have been identified.”

“The reception centre is built. The Chinese have visited it and from what I heard, they said it was the most beautiful reception area they had seen outside of Chengdu. They therefore approved the project,” the minister said, following a weekend visit to the Wolong panda reserve near the south-western city of Chengdu in Sichuan province.

“The panda is such a symbolic animal that such loan agreements require agreement from the highest level in China. That’s why it still lacks the final approval,” the minister explained.

During a state visit by President Hu to the United States in January, China announced it would extend its loan of two pandas to Washington zoo for a further five years.

Giant pandas are among the world’s most endangered species, with only about 1,600 living in the wild and some 300 in captivity, mostly in China.

European leaders called on China last week to invest in the region’s European Financial Stability Facility to help it overcome the debt crisis, but Beijing has made no firm commitment to assist the troubled eurozone.

Hu told Sarkozy ahead of the G20 summit in Cannes that Europe was mostly responsible for resolving the debt crisis, Chinese state media said.

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ANIMAL

Paris authorities to shut down bird market over cruelty concerns

The Paris city council on Wednesday agreed to shut down a live bird market operating in the historic centre close to Notre Dame cathedral, responding to rights activists who called it a cruel and archaic operation.

Paris authorities to shut down bird market over cruelty concerns
Photo: AFP

The bird market on Louis Lepine square in the centre of the French capital has long been a fixture in Paris, operating close to the famous flower market.

But Christophe Najdovski, Paris' deputy mayor in charge of animal welfare, said that the market was a centre for bird trafficking in France while conditions for the birds were not acceptable.

“This is why we are committed to changing the regulations to ban the sale of birds and other animals,” he said.

The closure had been urged by activists from the Paris Animals Zoopolis collective who had called the practice of showing the caged birds “cruel and archaic”.

France and Paris have in the last months adopted a series of measures aiming to show they are at the forefront of efforts to protect animal welfare.

The government said in September it planned to “gradually” ban mink farms as well the use of wild animals in travelling circuses and dolphins and orcas in theme parks.

Parc Asterix, which normally has some two million visitors a year, announced last month it would close its dolphin and sea lion aquarium.

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