The Calgary Zoo in Canada will return two pandas to China

Giant pandas Da Mao and Er Shun arrived in Toronto in 2014.

The duo, named Er Shun and Da Mao, should have stayed in Canada until 2023 as part of a 10-year deal with China, but the zoo decided to postpone them early for fear that the delays could get worse if there was a second wave of coronavirus cases.

A panda’s diet consists almost entirely of fresh bamboo, said the Calgary zoo, and animals typically eat about 40 kilograms each day.

Much of the Er Shun and Da Mao bamboo ate before the pandemic was transported directly to Calgary from China, but those flights were canceled.

The zoo said it tried to find new bamboo suppliers to keep the pandas fed, but encountered several logistical problems. They also worry that these new supply lines can be shut down in a flash, leaving the pandas completely without food.

“We believe that the best and safest place where Er Shun and Da Mao find themselves in these difficult and unprecedented times is where bamboo is abundant and easy to access,” said Calgary Zoo President and CEO, Dr. ClĂ©ment Lanthier in a statement. “This was an incredibly difficult decision to make, but the health and well-being of the animals we love and care for always comes first.”

Er Shun and Da Mao arrived in Canada in 2014 and spent five years at the Toronto Zoo before moving to Calgary in March 2018 with the puppies Jia Panpan and Jia Yueyue, said the Calgary Zoo. Those puppies were moved to China, Reported CBC, CNN media partner.

Lanthier told CBC that the zoo started the panda move process a few weeks ago and hopes to get the permits approved this week, although he would like to see the process speed up.

Giant pandas are among some of the rarest animals on the planet, although efforts to preserve species have shown some success in recent years. In 2016, the status of the giant panda was updated from “endangered” to “vulnerable” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. There are only about 1,864 of them living in nature, according to the World Wildlife Fund.

China has sent giant pandas abroad for years as a sign of friendship and cooperation between Beijing and other countries as part of a campaign known as “panda diplomacy”, offering foreigners the opportunity to see these animals in person by promoting the same time ties between governments.

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