Panda Da Mao peeks at Toronto Monday March 25 through the special Federal Express container at Pearson Airport

Pandas arrive in Toronto for five-year stay at Toronto Zoo

Even though Chinese Pandas Er Shun and Da Mao touched down in Toronto Monday, it will be at least one month before they will actually make their first public appearances at the Toronto Zoo.

The Panda Express, a MD-11F aircraft donated by worldwide courier FedEx, arrived at Pearson International Airport Monday morning concluding the panda’s 18 hour flight from China.

They were met on the tarmac by a Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Zhang Yesui, the Chinese Ambassador to Canada and a large group of media.

The pandas must now go through a 30 day quarantine said Gabriela Mastromonaco, Curator of Reproductive Programs and Research at the Toronto Zoo.

“When you’re travelling to different countries, different parts of the world, there are disease concerns,” she said.

“So they’ve done a one month quarantine to make sure that they’re not bringing in anything in to the country and then we’ll do the 30 day quarantine here to make sure they’ve passed all the health issues and can be released in to their exhibits.”

The pandas will need access to a lot of bamboo during their stay in Canada, so two to three times per week FedEx will be shipping fresh bamboo from the Memphis Zoo’s bamboo farm. This is done by FedEx as a donation to the zoo.

“We call them bamboo hogs … a majority of their diet, almost 90 per cent is bamboo and we’ve got fresh bamboo that’s coming in twice a week just for them,” Mastromonaco said.

 

President of FedEx, Lisa Lisson, said that she was pleased to see that the pandas seemed to enjoy their flight.

“I actually just saw a picture of one of the pandas on route eating bamboo and he looked very happy,” said Lisson, who was at Pearson to meet the incoming flight.

But bamboo wasn’t the only thing meant to make the flight easier on the bears. Lisson noted the kennels used to  transport the pandas were transported in were sent to China 10 days early.

“(They) put them in the environment with the pandas so they could go over and look and touch and feel them, so when we actually put them in their enclosures it wasn’t going to be a shock for them,” she said. “There is plenty of bamboo, apples, water and of course their stuffed animals.”

Ultimately, the goal for Er Shun and Da Mao is to mate, but Mastromonaco says it will be another year before that will be possible.

“Well that (mating), will be our role next year, they only breed 24-72 hours once a year, so there will be a lot of focus leading up to that, to introduce them properly, to get along, and to manage the breeding.”

Because pandas are solitary creatures in the wild, they will be housed separately and the only time they will be together will be during breeding says Mastromonaco.

Lisa Lisson, president of Federal Express Canada, welcomes the two Chinese pandas to Toronto Monday March 25 (Jamie Anderson/Toronto Observer)