1970s, France

Country: France

Location: Vincennes Zoo, Paris

Date: (sometime between 1974 and 1981)

Panda: Yen Yen


Former French President Valery Giscard d’Estaing was apparently attacked by Yen Yen, a male panda, while visiting his daughter at Vincennes Zoo. Although it happened sometime in the 1970s, Giscard d’Estaing did not speak publicly about the incident until May 2013. The BBC quoted him as saying (in translation):

They came to extract me from its claws but imagine what would have been said had the animal knocked me to the ground,” the famously tall president – he is 1.89m (6ft 2in) – remarked to laughter from the audience.

Iain Valentine, Director of Giant Pandas at the Edinburgh Zoo, told the BBC “Although they are vegetarian bears, obviously at the end of the day pandas are still very powerful and muscular bears with teeth and claws to match”.

Yen Yen was one of two male pandas given to France in 1973 by China. Yen Yen died in January of 2000. The other panda, Li Li, died from a pancreatic tumour only months after arriving in France.


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