Calgary Zoo hopes lessons learned in China will help breed pandas in 2019

Click to play video: 'Calgary Zoo staff hope lessons learned in China help panda breeding in 2019: ‘We’re super excited!’' Calgary Zoo staff hope lessons learned in China help panda breeding in 2019: ‘We’re super excited!’
WATCH: Going to see the pandas at the Calgary Zoo is a festive favourite for a lot of families this holiday season. And as Gil Tucker shows us, the zoo’s now taking steps that could bring more pandas in 2019 – Dec 24, 2018

Pandas have brought a lot of excitement to the Calgary Zoo in 2018, and staff are hoping the birth of more pandas at the zoo will bring even more excitement in 2019.

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The pandas arrived for a five-year visit to Calgary in the spring of 2018. In late fall, zoo curators traveled to Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding in China.

“I just got back from a pretty cool trip to China, where we did a lot of talking about panda babies,” Calgary Zoo curator Matt Korhonen said.

Korhonen, and others on the team that work with pandas, are hoping the lessons learned at the Chengdu panda base will help them in Calgary.

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“The temperature and the lighting are super important,” Korhonen said. “So if you want pandas romantic, you manipulate that. It’s almost like a recipe: do this at this time for this amount and time, and hopefully at the end of it, you get some pandas.”

It’s quite a challenge – a female panda is only fertile for a couple of days a year.

“We’ll just monitor that very, very closely,” Korhonen said. “We actually look at it through her urine, through blood samples, also through behaviour.”

He said the goal is for the animals to try naturally.

“Otherwise we’ll have experts coming from China to help us do artificial insemination,” he said. “In a perfect world, she’d get pregnant late April, early May. So if we’re lucky, the babies will be born late next year. We’re super excited for it.”

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