Canada has always been known for its moose and its walruses, and starting today, it will be known for its pandas.
FedEx is shipping Er Shun, a 5-year-old female, and Da Mao, a 4-year-old male, to Toronto from China on March 25. As part of an agreement signed by China’s former President Hu Jintao and Canada’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper, the pandas will spend 10 years in Canada — five at the Toronto Zoo, then five at the Calgary Zoo. This is the first time in 20 years that giant pandas have been loaned to a Canadian zoo, according to a FedEx press release.
On board, the pandas will be transported in their own white enclosures with holes; and the cages have been put in their natural habitats so they can get used to them before the long journey.
Er Shun, who hails from Chongqing Zoo, and Da Mao, who hails from Chengdu (home to China’s premier panda-research-and-breeding center), were chosen because they are supposed to be an “excellent genetic match for breeding” and will become part of the international effort to conserve the endangered species, according to a statement from Dr. Gaby Mastromonaco, curator of reproductive programs and research at the Toronto Zoo, on FedEx’s blog. The World Wildlife Federation estimates that there are only 1,160 giant pandas left in the wild.
The climate in Toronto, however, is not conducive to growing bamboo — which makes up 80% to 90% of pandas’ diets. So the Memphis Zoo — home to two giant pandas, Ya Ya and Le Le — will be shipping approximately 700 lb. of the green plants to the Toronto Zoo twice a week.
In the past, FedEx Panda Express has transported pandas from China to Paris (2012), Edinburgh (2011), Memphis (2003) and Washington, D.C. (2000). Both the American-born Tai Shan, the first surviving panda cub born at the National Zoo, and Mei Lan, who was born at Zoo Atlanta, flew the special plane back to China. And here’s what that looks like:
Staffers at the Toronto Zoo are so revved up for Er Sun’s and Da Mao’s arrival that they made a “Harlem Shake” video. We hope they’ll make a second one with the real pandas.