New panda paddock nearing completion at the Calgary Zoo
The pandas are still months away from arriving in the city, but the planning process for their transportation and care is well underway at the Calgary Zoo.
The zoo says it will have specialists direct from China to help out for the first two years of the pandas’ five year stay in Calgary.
Officials say that the $14.1M project to transform the old elephant enclosure into a new giant panda exhibit is well on track to completion.
“We've got a whole new indoor space, so that we can have pandas comfortable in both the extreme heat in the summer when we get it as well as the really cold times in the winter, and the outdoor space is fantastic, it's a big mountain area the pandas have to spend their time in and have everything they could possibly need,” said Jamie Dorgan with the Calgary Zoo.
Dorgan says that the Chinese specialists will help keepers understand the unique needs of the animals.
“They have a very different digestive system; it requires observation and working with both the bamboo and the pandas, so people that have experience doing that stuff will give us a little more confidence I think as we move forward.”
Right now, the families of four pandas are at the Toronto Zoo and, weeks before their trip to Calgary, a team will be sent east to familiarize themselves with their care and behaviour. The zoo has budgeted $2M per year to feed and support the pandas.
Visitors, who last saw pandas at the zoo in 1988, say they can’t wait to see them in the new facility.
Will Dowbush was only two years old when he saw them and now can’t wait to bring his daughter to see the special bears.
“I’m kinda looking forward to it. I’m happy to have them here because, I mean, I would love to show Isabel when she’s a little older and old enough to remember and I think she’d really like it.”
The work on the new enclosure is scheduled to be complete by November.
There is no firm date for the pandas’ arrival, but officials say that the animals will take some time to get used to the new exhibit before it is opened to the public.
(With files from Kevin Fleming)