Calgary Sending Pandas Home

With flights canceled, zoo can't get enough good bamboo for them to eat
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted May 14, 2020 4:38 PM CDT
Calgary Sending Pandas Home
Da Mao, an adult male panda bear, is seen in 2018. He is headed back to China ahead of schedule.   (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press via AP)

Two giant pandas scheduled to stay in Canada for three more years are instead headed back to China. Because of the pandemic shutdown, the CBC reports, the Calgary Zoo said it's having problems getting shipments of imported bamboo. "This is too much stress on my team and on the pandas," said Clément Lanthier, head of the zoo. "Can you imagine not having bamboo for a few days?" The zoo needs deliveries of fresh bamboo twice a week from China, he said, which hasn't been possible because of air service cutbacks. The zoo struggled find a quality replacement for Er Shun and Da Mao. "They don't like the bamboo they get," Lanthier said. "They get fewer bamboo. The bamboo's too dry." The pandas refused to eat bamboo brought from the US, per the Calgary Herald.

Because the pandas are so selective about the bamboo they eat, the zoo needs large quantities. "I could go on and on about the problems we have encountered moving bamboo from China, the United States, and elsewhere in Canada to Calgary,” Lanthier said. “It’s been very difficult." Fear of a second wave of COVID-19 striking also affected the decision. The zoo, which has hosted the pair since 2018, is asking Canada and China to hurry the permits needed to send the pandas back. "There is no time for politics or delay," Lanthier said. "The welfare of the animals are at risk." The zoo is closed during the pandemic, but the pandas have been a big draw. The zoo's PandaCam has been turned off while the pandas are prepared for their trip, per the zoo's website. (More giant pandas stories.)

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