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. Clément 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.”
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.
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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