Prime Minister Harper today visited the Toronto Pearson International Airport for the arrival of two giant pandas that China is providing to Canada for 10 years.
The Chinese Association of Zoological Gardens has agreed to grant two giant pandas to the Toronto Zoo – who will host them first – and the Calgary Zoo for a period of 10 years beginning March 25, 2013. Each zoo will care for the pair of pandas for a period of approximately five years.
Er Shun, the female panda whose name translates as “Double Smoothness”, was born at the Chongqing Zoo in China on August 10, 2007, and was raised by her mother. Her Chinese handlers characterize her as docile yet lively.
Da Mao, the male panda whose name translates as “Big Fur”, was born through artificial insemination at the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding in China on September 1, 2008, and was hand-reared. He is a lively and tender gentleman.
It has been more than 20 years since giant pandas have walked on Canadian soil. Canada was home to giant pandas for short-term stays on three separate occasions in the 1980s. During that time, the Calgary, Toronto and Winnipeg zoos each hosted the animals.
China has had several long-term agreements of this nature with other nations. Australia, Austria, Japan, Singapore, Spain, Taiwan, Thailand, and the United States have all been hosts to giant pandas.
Giant pandas, which are unique to China, are among the world’s most endangered species and are seen as symbols of peace, friendship and good fortune.