If you can’t bring bamboo to the giant pandas, you need to move the giant pandas closer to the bamboo!

Posted on May 12

After months of overcoming barriers to transporting fresh bamboo to feed its giant pandas, the Calgary Zoo announced today that it will be relocating giant pandas, “Er Shun” and “Da Mao”, back home to China where bamboo is abundant and local.

“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.”

Giant pandas have unique nutritional requirements: 99% of their diet is made up of fresh bamboo and each adult giant panda consumes approximately 40kg of bamboo daily. In the last two months, the Calgary Zoo has seen changes in transportation destroy the bamboo supply lines they have depended on since the giant pandas’ arrival in Calgary.

Direct flight cancellations between China and Calgary resulted in WestJet stepping up to move the bamboo from Toronto to Calgary, but fewer flights between China and Toronto as a result of the pandemic removed this option. The Calgary Zoo team has worked tirelessly with alternate bamboo suppliers to find a way to keep the giant pandas fed, despite misdirected shipments, slower than acceptable delivery times causing some poor quality bamboo that the giant pandas won’t eat, and concern with limited supplies. Forces beyond the zoo’s control could disrupt these remaining lines of supply at any time — and without warning.

“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.”

Er Shun and Da Mao arrived in Canada in 2014 as part of a 10-year agreement between Canada and China. After spending 5-years at the Toronto Zoo, the two adult giant pandas arrived at the Calgary Zoo in March 2018 with cubs, Jia Panpan and Jia Yueyue.

Er Shun and Da Mao will be deeply missed by staff, volunteers, donors and visitors from around the world.  Knowing a second wave of COVID-19 is likely, and the bamboo supply chain challenges will continue to negatively impact the zoo’s ability to bring bamboo to the giant pandas, the Calgary Zoo feels it’s critical to move the beloved giant pandas back to China where there are abundant local sources of bamboo as soon as possible.

The zoo expressed gratitude for the generosity of the donors and sponsors that made it possible for the giant pandas to come to the Calgary Zoo. 

In-person farewells are not possible during our temporary closure.