The Giant Pandas are safely home in China

Posted on November 30

We are immensely relieved to announce that the Calgary Zoo’s beloved giant pandas, “Er Shun” and “Da Mao”, have arrived safely home in China. Late last week, the giant pandas were flown from Calgary to Frankfurt on a diverted Lufthansa Cargo flight, and then onto Chengdu, where they were transported to Chongqing Zoo - Er Shun’s birth place.

“We believe the best and safest place for Er Shun and Da Mao to be during these challenging and unprecedented times is at home in China, where bamboo is abundant and easy to access”, said Dr. Clément Lanthier, President & CEO of the Calgary Zoo. “This was an incredibly difficult decision to make but the health and wellbeing of the animals we love and care for always comes first.”

The giant pandas arrived in Canada in 2013 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. The cubs returned home in January 2020 and the adults were expected to stay at the Calgary Zoo until 2023.

Giant pandas have unique nutritional requirements: 99% of their diet is made up of fresh bamboo and each adult giant panda consumes up to 40kg of bamboo daily. In the last 9-months we saw changes in transportation logistics destroy the bamboo supply lines we have depended on since the giant pandas’ arrival in Calgary; late and/or misdirected deliveries resulted in inedible bamboo for the giant pandas, and winter storms have the potential to only make things worse.  

Our Animal Care team has worked tirelessly with alternate bamboo suppliers to keep the giant pandas fed and well cared for since the beginning of the pandemic, while international permit approvals were obtained to get them home to China. When news of our plight went out to the international community, the response with help was amazing. Thank you to Lufthansa Cargo AG, DynaLIFE, Consulate team in Chengdu, Ambassador of Canada to the People’s Republic of China, Consulate General of the People’s Republic of China in Calgary team, Canadian Food Inspection Agency, Market Express, Canadian Chinese Embassy, Global Affairs Canada, YYC Airport, International Animal Lounge YYC, the Chinese Association of Zoological Gardens, Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Suncoast Nursery, San Diego Zoo, Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding, Chongqing Zoo, the National Forestry and Grassland Administration of China, Chinese Customs and the Embassy of Canada in China. 

Er Shun and Da Mao have become cherished members of the Calgary Zoo family and will be deeply missed by staff, volunteers, the community and visitors from around the world. The partnership between the Calgary Zoo, the Toronto Zoo and the Chinese Association of Zoological Gardens has been incredibly successful in leveraging shared learnings and wild giant panda conservation.

We are so grateful for the generosity of the donors and sponsors that made it possible for the giant pandas to come to the Calgary Zoo. We are also very proud of the research and financial resources we were able to contribute over the past 2-years to wild giant panda conservation, while inspiring and educating visitors with this iconic species.