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Giant Pandas at Toronto Zoo!
They're Here! - Giant Pandas arrived in Toronto on March 25th, 2013
In February 2012, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced that China has kindly agreed to lend Canada two Giant Pandas for ten years starting in May 2013.
Update: The Giant Pandas arrived in Toronto on March 25th and will spend their first 30 days in quarantine, During this time they'll undergo medical tests and behaviour monitoring before being slowly introduced to their new habitat before the exhibit opens in mid-May.
"Following agreement by Canada and China, the Chinese Association of Zoological Gardens will sign an agreement with the Toronto and Calgary zoos to provide a pair of giant pandas for 10 years of collaborative research on conservation."
This is the first time that China has loaned Giant Pandas to Canada since 1985 when Qing Qing and Quan Quan visited for 100 days.
The Giant Pandas will be at Toronto Zoo for the first five years, starting in mid-May 2013, followed by five years at the Calgary Zoo.
However, in the event that breeding is successful while the pair are at the Toronto Zoo, the giant Pandas and their cub(s) would remain in Toronto until it is approved to move them.
This is very exciting news for Canadians and for the Toronto Zoo, Canada's premier Zoo.
Introducing The Guests Of Honor
There will be two Giant Pandas at Toronto Zoo:
- Er Shun is a five-year old female, and
- Da Mao, a four-year old male.
Here is a link to the Giant Pandas at Toronto Zoo to see photos and learn more about Er Shun and Da Mao.
These Giant Pandas have never met before but they have been genetically matched as potential partners for breeding purposes. Both have been raised by their parents, rather than by hand, which is a good sign as it increases the likelihood that they in turn will make good parents.
You can learn more about these incredible creatures, with photos and video, in my article Giant Panda Facts.
The Giant Panda Habitat
The Giant Pandas at Toronto Zoo will live in the 2,000 square foot enclosure that is currently occupied by the Siberian (or Amur) Tigers and which is currently undergoing renovation.
The climate in Toronto is quite similar to that of their native habitat in Sichuan, central China.
In addition, the accommodations will be designed to provide the extra humidity that Giant Pandas prefer.
As bamboo makes up 99% of their diet in the wild, large amounts of bamboo will need to be grown in the zoo greenhouses, supplemented by shipments from the U.S. and elsewhere.
In zoos, Giant Pandas eat bamboo, sugar cane, rice gruel, special high-fiber biscuits, carrots, apples and sweet potatoes.
The Canadian Giant Panda Breeding Program
There is a lot of pressure on Er Shun and Da Mao to breed. There are only about 1,600 Giant Pandas left in the wild and just over 300 live in zoos and breeding centers around the world.
The Giant Panda mating season is extremely brief, with the female only able to conceive for a 48 hour period once a year, sometime between March and May.
The female's fertility will be tracked by hormone testing of feces and urine and, when the time is right, if natural breeding does not occur then veterinarians could choose to artificially inseminate her once every six hours during the fertile period. If a cub is born, then DNA testing can be used to determine the biological father.
The Lesser or Red Panda
Toronto Zoo is already home to a close relative of the Giant Panda, the Lesser or Red Panda (Ailurus fulgens).
This panda is an attractive, raccoon-like animal with a reddish-brown coat, black and white facial markings and a long ringed tail.
It is nocturnal in nature and, with semi-retractile claws, it is an excellent climber that spends a lot of time in trees.
Visit Toronto To See The Giant Pandas
Now you know that there will be Giant Pandas At Toronto Zoo for 5 years starting in May 2013, you should start planning your visit. Toronto Zoo is a fantastic zoo, and Toronto is a world-class city.
If you're interested in learning more about these amazing animals, here are some Giant Panda Facts.
We look forward to giving you a warm Canadian welcome in 2013!