September 26, 2017 4:02 pm
Updated: September 26, 2017 9:29 pm

Calgary Zoo brings on team of experts as it prepares to welcome giant pandas

WATCH: The Calgary Zoo said Tuesday it’s put together a team of experts to care for the family of giant pandas that are arriving from Toronto in the spring. Tony Tighe reports.

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The Calgary Zoo said Tuesday it’s put together a team of experts to care for the family of giant pandas that are arriving from Toronto in the spring.

In a media statement, the zoo said a two-person team would be flying in from China. They’ll stay in Calgary for the first two years to make sure the animals settle into their new home.

READ MORE: Sneak peek at new Panda Passage at Calgary Zoo

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The pair will be working closely with a panda specialist in Calgary that has eight years of experience working with the animals, including a stint at the Ocean Park Zoo in Hong Kong.

“It is helpful to have individuals who understand those types of animals, which is a critical part of transitioning the pandas from Toronto,” said Jamie Dorgan, director of animal care.

The panda care specialist, Cissy Kou, said Tuesday that she’ll have to learn the personalities of the individual animals in order to provide the best care.

“I have to learn individual preference and weather change and the season change on their food preference,” she said, as an example.

“They’re unique and everybody thinks they’re cuddly and they can just go in and work with them, but they’re solitary animals.”

“There is a certain degree of danger that it can involve, so it has to be a well-trained keeper.”

WATCH BELOW: Toronto Zoo releases new video of baby pandas playing with their mom together for first time

Dorgan said the zoo is also sending a team to Toronto to learn more about the animals from staff who’ve been working closely with them for the past five years.

“We can work together on how they’ve been trained and what the pandas like – and don’t like – to make the transition for the bears easier,” he said.

Calgary Tourism said they expect the giant pandas will be a big draw and could bring more people to the city.

“Pandas are something so unique that we don’t normally get to experience here in western Canada,” said Cassandra McAuley.

One Calgary woman said her family is “super excited” for the animals to arrive, after missing the opportunity to see them in Toronto.

READ MORE: Calgary Zoo seeks $8M in funding from city for arrival of giant pandas

“We were going to see them in Toronto, but the zoo was closed,” said Chantry Jelinek. “So it’s even more exciting that they are coming here so we don’t have to go so far to see them.”

McAuley said the city saw a tourism boom in 1988 when giant pandas were in Calgary for a short period of time, and they expect the buzz to be even greater this time around.

“This time they’re here for five years and so, we expect there to be an important contribution to the economy and to the zoo through this,” she said.

Dorgan said construction on the panda enclosure, which is where the elephants were once housed, is expected to be complete in November.

“It’s very, very different. People won’t even recognize it as the same space,” said Dorgan.

“It’s a big mountain area that the pandas have to spend their time in, and [they] have everything they could possibly need,” he added, describing the outdoor space.

Dorgan said there’s also an indoor enclosure where the pandas can stay warm in the winter and cool down in the summer heat.

The pandas will be in Calgary for five years.

 

 

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