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

Unruly passenger forces Victoria-bound flight to divert to Calgary

Police say charges are pending against a woman in her 40s

RECALL: Salmon Village Salmon Nuggets

Customers warned not to eat product due to possible Listeria contamination

Victoria invited to get a closer look at Sunday’s lunar eclipse

Special event allows public to view the moon through UVic telescopes

Vancouver Island couple fights for their lives together

Richard Stuart needs a kidney, his wife Tracy has been diagnosed with cancer

Victoria Whisky Festival kicks off this weekend

Whisky-lovers flock to Hotel Grand Pacific for weekend events and tastings

Fashion Fridays: Inspirational gym outfits

Kim XO, helps to keep you looking good on Fashion Fridays on the Black Press Media Network

Vancouver Island conservancy group calls for government to shut down Georgia Strait herring roe fishery

DFO says extensive research is done annually before setting a maximum harvest rate

POLL: Should people have to license their cats?

The Victoria Natural History Society has sent letters to 13 municipalities in… Continue reading

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of Jan. 15

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

High court ruling allows long-term expats to vote in byelections across Canada

Supreme Court decision enfranchised an estimated one million or more Canadian expats to be able to vote

B.C. woman posts to Facebook after she and nephew reported missing for days

Roseanne Supernault says both she and her six-year-old nephew are fine and she has contacted police

Company issues lifetime ban after man jumps from cruise ship

Nick Naydev posted the video last week showing him standing on the balcony of the Symphony of the Seas

The debate over how to teach math in B.C.

Tutoring businesses growing with concerns

Inflation rises as higher airfares, veggie prices offset cheaper gas

Statistics Canada says inflation accelerated to two per cent in December

Most Read