Lifestyle & Belief

Valery Giscard d'Estaing: Former French president attacked by panda


Shuan Shuan, one of the two surviving giant pandas in Mexico, eats bamboo during a visit to Ueno Zoo in Tokyo on December 10, 2003.


Junko Kimura

Former French President Valery Giscard d'Estaing revealed Thursday that he was once attacked by a panda when the animal jumped on him at a zoo.

The former Head of State was visiting Vincennes Zoo on the outskirts of Paris, where his daughter was on work experience, when he decided to test his "presidential courage" and enter the panda's cage.

Giscard d'Estaing, now 87, relayed the incident for the first time at the Thursday news conference, and said zoo staff had to free him from the animal's claws.

The pandas in the cage he entered were a gift from China to Giscard d'Estaing's predecessor, Georges Pompidou.

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"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, at 6ft 2in, said to laughter from the audience.

Giscard d'Estaing, known for being the most aristocratic of recent French leaders, was president of France from 1974 to 1981. He was speaking at an event in Blois, the capital of the north-central region of Loir-et-Cher.