What is black and white and loved all over?

Giant pandas and two baby twin cubs make visitors coo at the Toronto Zoo

Er Shun continues to be a great mother and the cubs are progressing very well. The Toronto Zoo

When you are driving east along the Hwy. 401, you may pass by some billboards with the cute,  black and white creature on it.

“Meet the giant pandas at Toronto zoo!”  the slogan says. Meanwhile, pictures and videos of giant pandas appear prominently on the Toronto Zoo website with the question, “What is black and white and loved all over? The giant panda of course!”

In February 2012, Toronto Zoo CEO, John Tracogna, and Calgary Zoo president and CEO, Clement Lanthier, signed a Giant Panda Cooperation Agreement, confirming the arrival of Er Shun and Da Mao to Canada.

How the zoo is helping its Giant panda guests:

Giant pandas are almost fully dependent on bamboo as their natural habitat. The Toronto Zoo supports a bamboo and habitat restoration project in China, through the Endangered Species Reserve Fund.

The zoo also hires a reproductive physiologist who studies ways to improve the productivity of the endangered species and also used her expertise in a breeding program for ER Shun, the female panda, and male panda Da Mao.

ER Shun became pregnant through artificial insemination and recently gave birth to twin cubs.

The two giant pandas will be staying in Canada for at least 10 years.

It is the second time the they’ve been in Toronto. What is different now compared to 1985 is that the pandas have a bigger family.

Er Shun gave birth to twin cubs last month at the zoo. They are one-month-old now and will remain in the maternity den with their mom for the next few months.

Maria Franke, curator of mammals at the zoo, describes it as “an enormous surprise to the city”.

“We are glad to have the baby pandas here, it’s like a dream come true,” she said. “Er Shun is a great mother and we love them so much.”

There are less than 2,000 pandas in the world, most of them are located in the provinces of Sichuan and Shaanxi.

By 2013, 375 giant pandas were in captivity, and about 200 of them at the China Conservation and Research Centre for the Giant Panda. They are considered an endangered species in need of careful protection in order to avoid extinction.

One major factor impacting the lovely species is due to their natural lifestyle. A panda reaches maturity when it is about four to eight years old. At this time the panda can reproduce, however, female pandas are only able to conceive two to three days each spring.

Apart from the slim possibility of conceiving, the panda also has a low birth rate of one cub every two years.

Why do humans love pandas? One good reason:

Why do people care and love giant pandas so much?

Is it because they are cute or because they are an endangered species?

According to professor Steve Joordens, who works in the Psychology Department at the University of Toronto, one reason is that pandas closely resemble human babies in appearance, referred to as ‘neoteny’ in the scientific community.

“We love pandas because of their big eyes, the way they sit and eat, the way they play with toys reminds us of our children,” Joordens said.

Giant pandas have also been used by China to represent the potency of a nation. They symbolize peace and friendship, and  provide a window for other countries to learn about Chinese culture.

Da Mao and Er Shun, on loan from the Chinese government, will be moving to Calgary Zoo in 2018. It is not clear if the twin cubs will stay in Canada yet, however the two lovely pandas are seen as a sign of warm diplomatic relations between the two countries.

About this article

By: Xue Bo
Posted: Nov 26 2015 11:53 am
Filed under: Arts & Life