TORONTO – Two pandas destined for the Toronto Zoo have arrived in Toronto.
The pair of bears landed in Vancouver early Monday morning after before flying across the country aboard a customized FedEx MD11 jet.
Five-year-old female Er Shun and four-year-old Da Mao received a VIP welcome Monday morning when they arrived in Toronto.
Prime minister Stephen Harper and China’s ambassador to Canada, Zhang Junsai, greeted the bears at an airport hangar.
The panda pair will spend the next five years at the Toronto Zoo and then another five years at the Calgary Zoo.
The hope is that the two will breed. According to the Toronto Zoo, female pandas only have one reproductive cycle each year and typically produce offspring only once every second year.
Giant pandas, native to central China’s mountain ranges, are endangered due to deforestation and development. There are an estimated 1,600 remaining in the wild and nearly 300 in captivity.
Er Shun and Da Mao, who only met before the 15-hour flight, are making the 12,875-kilometre journey from Chengdu to Toronto aboard a customized FedEx jet dubbed the “Panda Express.” The bears are supervised en route by a veterinarian and two attendants and the plane is stocked with 100 kilograms of bamboo, 150 kilograms of bamboo shoots, 50 kilograms of apples and 15 kilograms of fresh water.
Toronto Zoo plans to raise admission prices when they pandas go on public display in May.