Giant panda family arrives in Calgary
A family of pandas arrived in the city on Friday and two of the four will call the Calgary Zoo home for the next five years.
Da Mao and Er Shun, and their offspring Jia Panpan and Jia Yueyue are coming from the Toronto Zoo and were loaded onto a plane on Friday morning for the flight to Calgary.
The visit is part of a ten-year agreement between the two zoos and the Chinese government. China will receive $1 million USD a year for lending the pandas to Canada and the money will be used to support the breeding program.
Dam Mao and Er Shun arrived in Toronto in 2013 and their cubs were born two years later.
“We are anticipating the arrival of four giant pandas, so we’re bringing that magic back to Calgary, we haven’t had them for 30 years and this time it’s part of a ten year loan from China for Canada. So our colleagues at Toronto Zoo have been having lots of fun with the four pandas for five years and now it’s our turn,” said Trish Exton-Parder, Media Relations, Calgary Zoo.
The Calgary Zoo spent $100 million in upgrades across the facility in preparation for the pandas and converted the old elephant habitat into Panda Passage.
"We are so ready. We have an incredible team of experts who know how to care for pandas, they’ve been to China, they’ve trained with the keepers at the Toronto Zoo and now it’s time to anticipate that arrival," said Exton-Parder.
The bears will spend the next month in quarantine to get used to their new surroundings and the lead keeper from Toronto will spend the next five days here helping with the transition.
"We’ll be having great ceremonies in the morning and then open up the gates to Panda Passage at noon. So that’s the day that we’re gearing for. We’ll have lots of stories in the meantime to get you to know the four pandas, Er Shun, Da Mao, Jia Yueyue and Jia Panpan and our keeper have lots to talk about too,” said Exton-Parder. "Right now it’s just about getting them here safely, getting them tucked into their new home in Calgary and letting them have some time to get used to Calgary.”
The adult bears will stay in Calgary for five years and the cubs will head back to China after about a year-and-a-half.
The pandas are part of a breeding program and Calgary zoo officials hope they will have the same success as the Toronto Zoo.
“We have them for five years, so no need to rush down right away. Last time we had them it was a seven year window, this time five years is a lot of time for people to be able to get to know them and it also give us that opportunity to do what Toronto did successfully and that was to artificially inseminate Er Shun and have a couple of little panda cubs born and we hope to do that once the two young ones go back to China, which is approximately a year-and-a-half and then that opens the window for us to be able to work on inseminating Er Shun. We have a nursery all set up in the back of the Panda Passage for that and wouldn’t that be something else?” added Exton-Parder.
Each pandas eats about 40 kilograms of bamboo per day and the zoo will bring in bamboo from China on a commercial flight a couple time a week.
"There’s nine varieties for them and each panda usually has their own specific taste on what they like but that’s 90 percent of their diet so that’s a big part of panda care is getting the right food for these guys.”
The Calgary Zoo expects to see about 1.5 million visitors the first year the pandas are here and the bears will add an estimated $18 million to the Calgary economy.
The Panda Passage exhibit is slated to open on May 7, 2018.
For more information on Panda Passage, click HERE.
Click HERE to watch the flight path as the pandas make their way to Calgary.