Former French President Claims He Survived a Panda Attack

In another round of politicians feeling invincible, a story of an ex-President and a panda

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Former French President Valéry Giscard d'Estaing in Madrid on October 22, 2012
Carlos Alvarez / Getty Images

Former French President Valéry Giscard d'Estaing in Madrid on Oct. 22, 2012

Former French President Valéry Giscard d’Estaing divulged at a recent conference something incredible that happened to him while in office: he survived a panda attack.

The now 87-year-old, who was President from 1974 to ’81, recounted that while he was visiting his daughter at the Vincennes Zoo in the outskirts of Paris, he decided to test his “presidential courage” and entered a cage of pandas — gifts from China to his predecessor, former President Georges Pompidou. One of the pandas allegedly jumped on him, forcing the zoo staff to pull off the territorial bear, reports BBC News. “They came to extract me from its claws, but imagine what would have been said had the animal knocked me to the ground,” Giscard d’Estaing shared with the chuckling audience.

(MORE: Bad News ‘Bear’: Giant Panda Attacks Zookeeper)

While the former national leader was drawn to these endangered fuzz balls, it’s recommended to avoid close contact with pandas, especially after they’ve matured beyond 2 years old. “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. [After age 2], certainly our keepers are never in the same area as our giant pandas,” Iain Valentine, a director at Edinburgh Zoo, informed the BBC.

Described as impossibly pompous, this isn’t the first time the ex-President raised a few eyebrows. In 2009, Giscard d’Estaing published a book titled The Princess and the President, a fictional romantic novel that stirred speculation of an intimate relationship with Diana, Princess of Wales. While these rumors were never confirmed, one thing’s for sure: Giscard d’Estaing has a knack for storytelling.

VIDEO: Sneezing Panda