Giant pandas are coming to Calgary, and the zoo is seeking millions of dollars to give them a royal welcome.
The zoo is asking for more than $8 million from the City of Calgary for their “Treasures of China” exhibit, set to house four giant pandas, arriving in 2018.
The exhibit is set to be put in the Eurasian Gateway building, currently home to the rhinoceros and Komodo dragons.
Designs for the enclosure have not been approved yet, and remain unreleased to the public, but spokesperson Trish Exton-Parder said the zoo has big plans.
“It’s going to be a pretty incredible, immersive exhibit. We have all kinds of vegetation and streams. It’s going to mimic a bamboo forest the best we can for a giant panda,” Exton-Parder said.
The zoo hopes the exhibit will cater to the wants of guests just as much as the needs of the pandas.
“You’ll be able to see them pretty close up,” Exton-Parder said.
“The welfare piece is extremely important to the Chinese as it is for us, to ensure the pandas will have the space they require if they need to get away and have some private time, and also certainly accommodate our visitors to enjoy them as much as they did back when we had them a few years ago.”
The pandas are expected to drive visitors to the zoo over their five-year visit.
Watch below: Baby pandas take first steps at Toronto Zoo
According to Exton-Parder, about 49 per cent of the traffic to the zoo on a yearly basis comes from out of town visitors, and the pandas are expected to draw more tourism.
An estimated $18 million is brought in each year by visitors, and the zoo expects the pandas to add up to $4 million more.
“Because it is such a captivating animal, we know the tourism piece will be an important part of that visit as well,” Exton-Parder said. “When you’ve got that extra hook, something a little bit different, people will put that into their travel plans.”
With files from Global’s Doug Vaessen