March 6, 2019 2:54 pm
Updated: March 6, 2019 11:31 pm

More panda cubs at the Calgary Zoo? Er Shun enters breeding cycle

WATCH: The mating season has come earlier than expected for the matriarch of the panda family at the Calgary Zoo. If all goes according to plan, Er Shun could be pregnant sometime this spring. Jill Croteau reports.

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Officials with the Calgary Zoo are hoping the family of giant pandas visiting the facility will soon grow, as they attempt to help mama Er Shun get pregnant.

The pandas are on loan from China as part of a 10-year breeding program. Er Shun and Da Mao arrived in Canada in March, 2013, staying at the Toronto Zoo. After being successfully artificially inseminated, Er Shun delivered her cubs, Jia Panpan and Jia Yueyue, in October 2015. The cubs were the first giant pandas to be born in Canada.

The panda family was then moved to Calgary in 2018, where they currently reside in the Panda Passage.

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Zoo officials said Er Shun has entered the early stages of her breeding cycle. They will be monitoring her hormone levels and hope to artificially inseminate her.

“The value of hosting and now breeding these international and vulnerable symbols of conservation is a tremendous opportunity to engage our community in making a difference for wildlife in Canada and around the world,” Calgary Zoo president and CEO Dr. Clément Lanthier said in a blog post.

According to the zoo, there are fewer than 1,800 giant pandas left in the wild.

READ MORE: How the Calgary Zoo is making environmental strides at Panda Passage

The back-of-house area in the Panda Passage was built to accommodate a nursing den, should Er Shun become pregnant through the breeding program, the zoo said.

Da Mao and Er Shun will remain in Calgary for the full five years of their stay, but their cubs Jia Panpan and Jia Yueyue will return to China in the next 18 months.

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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