Two giant pandas on loan from China and the two babies they created while living at the Toronto Zoo landed in Calgary on Friday afternoon, marking the start of the second part of their Canadian journey.
WATCH: Four giant pandas arrived Friday from Toronto to begin their five-year stay at the Calgary Zoo. Bindu Suri reports.
Er Shun and Da Mao, along with their offspring, Jia Panpan and Jia Yueyue, are the first pandas to arrive to the city since the 1988 Olympics.
But, instead of staying for just seven months like the pandas did in 1988, they will stay in Calgary for five years in the Panda Passage habitat at the Calgary Zoo.
When can you visit the pandas?
“They will be escorted here in fine form,” said Trish Exton-Parder, lead media relations for the Calgary Zoo. “Pandas are very pampered and so from start to finish they’re going to be safely settled in here with our team of panda experts and basically go into a quarantine right away.”
“So, we want our community to understand that once they have arrived, they will not be on display for anybody to see until May.
“None of us will see them as well, just the animal care keepers and our veterinarians for the next while, just to get the four of them used to a brand new home and new environment.”
WATCH: Giant pandas end stay in Toronto, transported by air to Calgary
Exton-Parder said the quarantine is standard protocol for new animals. Instead of sending them to their off-site animal health centre, it allows them to get used to all of the areas of the habitat until they’re ready to greet the public this May.
“We have about a 25 per cent increase that we’re expecting in visitation,” Exton-Parder said. “Judging from 30 years ago, when we had pandas in 1988, we had a lot of people down here and we really want to make sure that we get the best customer experience possible.
“With the partnership with China it’s really important that funds go back to China for the breading program, and that’s what a lot of this is all about and we hope to have cubs here just like Toronto was successful in having. So $1 million every year is what does go back for the next five years to China.”
WATCH: Crews unload one of four giant pandas bound for the Calgary Zoo on Friday, March 23.
She said that the two young cubs, Jia Panpan and Jia Yueyue, will be going back to China in about a year and a half in order to participate in the breeding program there.
“Once that happens it does open the door for us to be able to look at artificially inseminating Er Shun, and so when that happens there will be people from China involved as well as our expertise here with our panda team.”
WATCH: The plane carrying four pandas from Toronto lands at YYC Calgary International Airport.
What will the pandas eat?
When talking about the obstacles that the Calgary Zoo may have to face when it comes to the pandas, Exton-Parder said that because pandas are very unique animals, their digestive system can be challenging to work with as they’re not “particularly efficient.”
“Pandas have to eat a lot of bamboo in order to get any kind of nutrition. It’s 40 kilograms of bamboo per panda per day, and they’re also incredibly picky depending on what each panda is like,” she said.
“So, a big part of a keeper’s day is bringing in the bamboo, checking it out, seeing who likes the bamboo, making sure they’re eating it, and checking their poop to make sure it’s digesting properly.”
WATCH: The Calgary Zoo will soon be hosting four giant pandas that have spent the last five years at the Toronto Zoo.
She said that since pandas are a symbol of conservation and animals in trouble, moving them to Calgary is a unique opportunity for people to learn and to get inspired by finding ways to help out.
The Panda Passage exhibit itself costs $14.5 million, as it was built specifically to meet the pandas’ every need, as well as appeal to the public.
“There’s a beautiful area where you can walk through and learn all about the conservation in China,” Exton-Parder said. “People will be in for a big treat when they see it.
The exhibit is officially set to open in Calgary on May 7.
WATCH: After being loaded onto a truck Friday morning, the Toronto Zoo’s pandas left with a convoy of vehicles for the airport to fly to Calgary.