The giant pandas are making their return to the Toronto Zoo

After a 12 year absence, the Chinese giant pandas are finally returning to the Toronto Zoo.

On Feb. 11, it was officially announced that the pandas will be coming to Toronto. They will be on Canadian soil for a total of 10 years, spending five in Toronto and another five in Calgary.

One of the many supporters of bringing the pandas to Toronto is city councillor Giorgio Mammoliti, a former member of the Toronto Zoo board. Mammoliti held the chair position at the Toronto Zoo from 1998 to 2003.

“We’ve been at this for about 12 years now, and setting ourselves up for an opportunity over those 12 years to get the pandas into Toronto,” Mammoliti said.

“I think you are going to see us go through a very big and wonderful experience when they arrive.”

– Giorgio Mammoliti

Pandas were first brought to the Toronto Zoo in 1985, breaking attendance records at the time. With its attendance declining for the second year in a row, the arrival of the pandas could bring the zoo a much-needed boost.

“I think you are going to see us go through a very big and wonderful experience when they arrive,” Mammoliti said. “You are going to see line ups that we’ve never seen before…you are going to see the zoo very excited.”

One of the reasons pandas are endangered is due to complications in reproducing. However, wildlife centres in China and zoos around the world have learned how to breed pandas to increase the survival rate.

Panda Facts:

  • They live in bamboo forests in central China.
  • One of the rarest yet most recognized animals in the world.
  • There are about 1,000 left in the wild.
  • About 140 pandas live in zoos and breeding centres around the world, mostly in China.
  • They live to be about 35 years old in zoo environments, but it is unknown how long they live in the wild.
  • Their diet consist of about 99% bamboo.
  • Adult pandas generally live in solitary, but they do communicate regularly.
  • Panda offspring normally stay with their mothers between 1.5 and 3 years.
  • Despite their popular image as cute, cuddly bears, they are as dangerous as any other bear.

Source: china.org.cn

This means that fewer pandas will be put back or left in the wild.

“It’s such a shame that there are so few of them left in the wild,” Pat Tohill, of the World Society for the Protection of Animals, said. “It seems that the chances of actually having those animals truly in the wild in the future [are slim]. I don’t even know if that’s an objective anymore for the zoo community.”

One major concern for Tohill is whether the Toronto Zoo has the room to properly accommodate the pandas.

“We would hope that adequate resources are being set aside, financial and otherwise, to provide for these pandas and appropriate setting,” Tohill said.

Mammoliti said that there is a tiger exhibit at the zoo that can be renovated for the giant pandas relatively quickly. But according to him, the most vital part is the education that will come with the pandas.

“I think the most important part of this is that our children who visit the zoo will be educated around the panda bear: where they come from around the world and the most important part [of] how they survived the endangered list and how they potentially could have been extinct,” Mammoliti said.

The pandas are expected to arrive in Toronto in spring of 2013.

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