CALGARY -- Officials with the Calgary Zoo confirm they have secured fresh bamboo for the two giant pandas ahead of their eventual return to China.

Er Shun and Da Mao were to prematurely depart the Calgary Zoo ahead of their scheduled five-year stay at the zoo due to concerns regarding their food supply — the pair eat 40kg of bamboo each day — as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The zoo announced in May that the giant pandas would be returned to China but their departure has been delayed as approvals for international permits have not been obtained.

Panda Passage is no longer open to the public but, in a statement released Friday, Calgary Zoo officials say the pandas continue to receive exemplary care.

"The Calgary Zoo is sourcing fresh bamboo for them from a variety of suppliers across North America, in anticipation of our Canadian bamboo supply being depleted later this month.  While not ideal because this effort is an all-consuming, expensive process, the Calgary Zoo is committed to doing anything and everything we need to, to ensure the health and well-being of our cherished giant pandas. "

"We are cautiously optimistic that we’ll have a flight confirmed to get them home to China, where bamboo is abundant and local, very soon."

The giant pandas were on loan to Canada from China and spent five years at the Toronto Zoo before arriving in Calgary in March 2018. Two giant panda cubs — Jia Panpan and Jia Yueyue — were born at the Toronto Zoo in 2015 and made the trip to Calgary before being returned to China earlier this year to participate in a breeding program.