VIDEO: Rare panda looks for love at French zoo

VIDEO: Rare panda looks for love at French zoo
Eight-year-old male red panda Jixiang at a zoo in Lyon. He was joined this week by a female named Tara by zookeepers playing Cupid. Photo: Le Progrès/Screengrab
A French zoo is hoping that sparks will fly after its rare red panda (see video) got a new lady friend, flown in from Ireland, it was reported on Thursday. A fruitful love affair would help the species fight the threat of extinction.

The Lyon zoo, situated in the  Parc de la Tête d'or, had previously welcomed eight-year-old male red panda Jixiang (see video below) to France in May. 

And now the zoo has welcomed a one-year old female called Tara this week, who flew in from Ireland to see whether Jixiang takes her fancy.

Jixiang, the little orange-coated bear with white pointy ears, was originally born in Denmark, and had spent some time in South Africa before making Lyon his home. 

The animal looks like a cross between a racoon and a fox, but bigger and with the signature white markings on his face that the black panda has.

"It's a crowd-pleasing species," zoo deputy Guillaume Douy told regional daily Le Progrès.

"It's cute, let's be honest about that – it's a small ball of fur which is very cute, although it sleeps a lot," he added.

"The Lyonnais were very happy to have him arrive here," said Douy, adding that the red panda species, which comes from the Himalayan region of China, was under threat.

While the zoo keepers at the park in southern France were at first concerned that Jixiang was spurring the red panda's usual diet of bamboo, veterinarians said his weight was steady and healthy for his age. 

And the adorable fuzzball may need his strength, because if all goes to plan, Jixiang will end up doing his bit to fight the depopulation of his species. 

Le zoo de Lyon accueille un panda roux par leprogres

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