Da Mao, an adult male panda, was photographed at the Calgary Zoo during the opening of its giant panda habitat, Panda Passage, in Canada (Photo by The Canadian Press/Jeff McIntosh)
Calgary Zoo in Alberta, Canada is shipping two giant pandas, Er Shun and Da Mao, back to China years ahead of schedule due to difficulty obtaining bamboos amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
In 2014, the two pandas first arrived in Canada as part of a 10-year agreement between Canada and China. After spending five years at the Toronto Zoo, the two adult giant pandas arrived at the Calgary Zoo in March 2018 with cubs.
They are supposed to return to China in 2023, but zoo staff have been struggling to import enough bamboos to feed these giant pandas due to flights being disrupted by coronavirus. The pandas are eating almost exclusively bamboo and fresh bamboos need to be delivered twice a week. The zoo expects the supply of the panda’s main food could be further disrupted by transportation struggles on very short notice, including if there is a second wave of the virus. In addition, the pandas sometimes refused to eat substandard bamboo from new sources or bamboo that’s aged in transit.
The zoo announced the news on Tuesday (May 12). Calgary Zoo President and CEO Dr. Clément Lanthier said, “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.”
“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,” Lanthier added.
According to the zoo, fresh bamboo makes up nearly the entire diet of a panda. An adult panda can eat roughly 40 kilograms a day.
Officials with the zoo said they are in the process of exploring travel options to get the pandas home as soon as possible and no exact travel plans have been made.