Calgary Zoo pandas to be relocated back to China

The Calgary Zoo said Tuesday that the pandas would be sent back to China. LIVEWIRE CALGARY FILE PHOTO

The Calgary Zoo’s pandas will head home to China due to ongoing problems importing bamboo for them to eat.

The pandas arrived in 2014 as a part of a 10-year agreement between Canada and China. Er Shun and Da Mao spent the first five years at the Calgary Zoo. The pair arrived in Calgary in March 2018 with their cubs Jia Panpan and Jia Yueyue.

The panda cubs went back to China in January.

“We believe the best and safest place for Er Shun and Da Mao to be during these challenging and unprecedented times is where bamboo is abundant and easy to access,” said Calgary Zoo President & CEO Dr. Clément Lanthier.”

This was an incredibly difficult decision to make but the health and well-being of the animals we love and care for always comes first.”

Bamboo supply chain issues forced the decision

The pandas diet consists of 99 per cent bamboo the zoo said and they consume up to 40 kilograms daily. With direct flight cancellations between China and Calgary, local airline WestJet stepped up to move bamboo from Toronto to Calgary, but then a reduction in flights between Toronto and China caused further problems.

The Calgary Zoo said the current coronavirus pandemic destroyed their bamboo supply lines, forcing the decision.

“I am continually amazed by the resourcefulness and dedication of our team,” said Lanthier.

 “Unfortunately, they are fighting against forces much greater than the Calgary Zoo. Even the Canadian government had to fly empty planes out of China.”

The Calgary Zoo said with the expectation of a second wave of COVID-19 and further disruption to bamboo supply lines, they had to make the choice to send the pandas back to China.

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi said in Tuesday city coronavirus briefing that he didn’t ever think he’d be part of high-level trade negotiations for bamboo.

“But that’s what happens when you’re in an epidemic,” he said.

“And so, in any case, I’m very sad that the zoo has been forced to make this decision. I suspect there is much more conversation to be had on this issue, as we go forward.”

The Calgary Zoo has set up a PandaCam to view the pandas and so Calgary have have a final farewell.

The Calgary Zoo said the pandas will be missed by staff, volunteers and donors.

When the pandas leave forever

The building for the pandas was created specifically for them from 2016-2018 and cost $16 million to build.  

With the pandas needing to move out very soon, the building will still house the komodo dragon.

Until the zoo decides which animal to put in panda passage, it will be used to house interim animals that are having habitat upgrades or animals who would benefit from being in the building for their own gain.

The Calgary zoo is currently running on skeleton crew and do not intend to move any animals into the building at the moment. It takes some time for animals to be moved and the first thing that needs to happen is cleaning the exhibit.

“It’s not in the traditional sense of sterilization, but that’s the best way to describe it. When different species move in and out of a space, we have to do a deep clean of the front of house and the back of house.

Then our animal care team would identify another species that would benefit being in there,” said Alison Archambault, Director of Communications for the Calgary Zoo.

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