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CityPASS Home  »  City Traveler Blog  »  Giant Pandas Return to Toronto Zoo

City Traveler Blog

Giant Pandas Return to Toronto Zoo

It’s not every day that you can spot a giant panda at the Toronto Zoo. In fact, it’s been 28 years since the last time giant pandas were seen at the largest zoo in Canada—and at that time it was just for a short three-month stay.

So you can just imagine the thrill when the Toronto Zoo found it would be the home away home for “Er Shun” and “Da Mao.” This pair of perky pandas arrived in Toronto from China earlier this spring as part of the official Giant Panda Cooperation Agreement, an agreement between China and Canada that will have them splitting the next decade between Toronto and Calgary.

The female Er Shun, 5, (who was first thought to be a boy) and the male, Da Mao, 4, were specifically picked to travel 18 hours from their home in Chengdu, China, to Toronto, Canada, due to the fact that these two are seen to be a good genetic match for breeding (the gentle giant pandas are known to be very particular when it comes to their mating rituals). In the event that breeding is successful, the pandas and offspring would remain in Toronto for now, although at some point in the future they will be moved to Calgary.

It’s a very big deal that any zoo has a chance to host giant pandas due to the challenges that face what the Chinese refer to as the “Big Bear Cats” whether they are in or out of captivity. They are known to be picky eaters (they only eat the best bamboo and reject the rest); the females have only one reproductive cycle each year and it lasts under 72 hours; and a panda baby is one of the smallest newborn mammals relative to its mother’s size. On top of that, it is reported that there are only about 1,600 left in the wild. It’s not easy being an adorable endangered beast.

“We are honored to host the pandas at the Toronto Zoo and contribute to the survival of the species for generations to come,” said John Tracogna, CEO, Toronto Zoo, upon the news that the pair was coming to one of the most well-known Toronto attractions. “The Toronto Zoo is thrilled to join the small group of countries and highly respected zoo organizations outside of China that have the conservation and research programs, professional expertise, and facilities to provide excellent care for a breeding pair of pandas.”

To make them feel at home, the Toronto Zoo opened the “Giant Panda Experience” to the public in mid-May. Situated in the Zoo's Eurasia section, the interactive experience features two outdoor exhibit areas, which include climbing structures and a pool (giant pandas love to climb and swim!). The interior of the building features two exhibit areas, each with a climbing apparatus, and two holding areas for the giant pandas. Also included: a laboratory and nursery space, a changing room, a maternity area, and a food preparation area. Prior to experiencing the giant panda exhibit, all visitors have the opportunity to enjoy the Zoo's Giant Panda Interpretive Centre.

This newly-renovated climate controlled centre features many interpretive and interactive elements for visitors to enjoy year round, with themes including “Eating Bamboo,” “Threats to Giant Pandas,” and “Saving Giant Panda.”

These solitary creatures are adapting quite well to their new environment, especially Da Mao who has gained a rock-star rep for strutting around his enclosure. That is when he isn’t sleeping and eating, which according to the staff at the Toronto Zoo, the pair does a lot of. Such is the life of two of Toronto’s biggest stars: the sweet, shy Er Shun and the Big Man on Campus, Da Mao.

Toronto Zoo, Canada’s premier Zoo with over 5,000 animals including The Giant Panda Experience, is included as one of the Toronto CityPASS’s attractions.

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