Giant panda family makes its Calgary Zoo debut

The giant panda cubs were in a playful mood on Monday showing off for a crowd

Two giant panda cubs were in a playful mood Monday as the Calgary Zoo introduced them and their parents to the general public.

Jia Panpan and Jia Yueyue — meaning Canadian Hope and Canadian Joy — could be seen wrestling and rolling about their nearly 2,000 square-metre, indoor-outdoor habitat. After ambling over rocks by a small waterfall, one of the youngsters went inside to curl up by the glass and take a snooze.

Their father Da Mao, or First of Mao, was in the indoor part of the Panda Passage exhibit lazily lounging on a log and munching on a stalk of bamboo. Their mother Er Shun, or Double Smoothness, was out of view.

RELATED: Get ready to say aww it’s National Panda Day

Dozens of people were lined up around midday just as the exhibit opened its doors.

The furry foursome was shipped to Calgary from Toronto earlier this spring and spent about a month in quarantine.

The two adults are on loan from China to Canadian zoos as part of a 10-year deal signed in 2012. The cubs were born in Toronto in 2015.

The price tag to have them in Calgary was around $30 million, including $14.4 million for the exhibit itself. Expanded parking lots, washrooms and restaurants were also required to accommodate more visitors.

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi wrote to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in 2016 asking for federal funding. He said Monday he’s happy everything worked out, even though Ottawa didn’t chip in.

“In the end, private sponsors plus the government of Alberta and the City of Calgary were able to make this happen and we know the economic impact will be huge.”

Nenshi said he’s expecting the zoo to have its best year ever in 2018.

“But it’s also a great opportunity for Calgarians to unite about something that just makes us all feel good,” he said. ”After a tough couple of years, it’s important to have some feel-good things going on.”

RELATED: Tumbling pandas dominate the internet

Each of the critters eats 40 kilograms of bamboo a day, which is shipped twice weekly from China through a partnership between the zoo and Hainan Airlines.

Zoo president and CEO Clement Lanthier said he’s hopeful Er Shun may have more cubs while in Calgary. Female pandas are only receptive to breeding two days a year and the zoo is looking at artificially inseminating her. Er Shun has been trained to present her front leg so that blood samples can be taken to monitor her hormone levels.

“Stay tuned. We will monitor everything but I think our chances are fairly good,” said Lanthier. “The science of breeding pandas has been evolving dramatically in the past 10 years and that is the reason why they changed the status of the panda from endangered to vulnerable, because of the success of the captive breeding program.”

The adult pandas are to remain in Calgary for the next five years, while the cubs are to return to China in the next 18 months or so.

Lanthier said he hopes people drawn to the zoo by the high-profile visitors will end up learning something about species closer to home that are in trouble, such as the whooping crane, sage grouse and black-footed ferret.

“We’re planning to use the rock-star status of the panda to attract people in a conversation to talk about the less charismatic endangered species of Western Canada, mostly.”

The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Central Okanagan firefighters are battling wildfires across B.C.

Lake Country, Kelowna and Peachland crews are assisting the BC Wildfire Service

Oktopus to headline Music in the Park

The West Kelowna night of music will happen once again this Friday

Long-awaited John Hindle Drive in Kelowna just weeks away from completion

Ministry of Transportation says it plans to have the road open before the start of the school year

Blasting begins at Beachview Drive in West Kelowna

Blasting begins as part of residential development

Updated: RCMP no longer suspect death of Vernon woman is suspicious

West Kelowna RCMP continue to investigate the woman’s sudden death

A first-hand look at hazards facing scooter users

A Salmon Arm reporter tags along on a mobility scooter tour of the city to learn about safety hazards

RCMP to search for body after man drowns in B.C.’s Buntzen Lake

Officers and fire crews responded but the man from the Lower Mainland is believed to have drowned.

Man found not guilty in 2011 drug-related shooting in Shuswap

Judge rules Jeremy Davis couldn’t foresee his companion would kill 24-year-old Nick Larsen.

Police chiefs call for stricter controls on pill presses to fight opioids

Canada’s police chiefs are urging Ottawa to beef up its fight against the opioid scourge by closely vetting people who import pill presses

Hot, dry conditions forces drought rating to highest level on Vancouver Island

The province says Vancouver Island is under Stage 4 drought conditions

Victoria police say explicit calls continue to target women

Over 50 reports of unwanted, sexually explicit calls have come in

Parks Canada has ‘general concept’ in mind for South Okanagan-Similkameen

Minister Catherine McKenna will be providing a further update to representatives in Penticton Friday, August 17

‘It’s like a party in your mouth’

B.C. creator’s Milkshake Burger makes its debut at the PNE

Most Read