The Calgary Zoo has secured a new airline to bring hundreds of kilograms of bamboo a week to Panda Passage for its four hungry and picky giant pandas to eat.
The zoo’s bamboo supply was put in jeopardy in September, when Hainan Airlines — which had been importing the bamboo since the bears arrived — announced it was changing its direct flight from Calgary to Beijing from year-round to seasonal and the last flight would be Oct. 31.
Officials have been working ever since to find a way to get the weekly shipments to Calgary to feed the pandas.
The zoo announced Thursday that it had partnered with WestJet Cargo to secure the imports.
“As Calgary’s hometown airline, WestJet heard about the bamboo challenges and flew into action with the WestJet Cargo team offering to fly the bamboo shipments from Toronto to Calgary twice weekly,” the zoo said in a news release.
“Since our giant pandas don’t like wilted bamboo, this was fantastic news as WestJet Cargo also provides cool storage that ensures the pandas have access to the freshest bamboo possible.”
The first shipment of bamboo arrived via WestJet Cargo on Oct. 26 and are set to come every Tuesday and Saturday in the future.
“We’re happy we were able to step in and support our friends at the Calgary Zoo through our cargo operations,” WestJet senior commercial manager of cargo Nicolas Saignat said.
“WestJet has a great love and appreciation for animals, and we are delighted to be able to assist in providing the freshest bamboo for Da Mao, Er Shun, Jia Panpan and Jia Yueyue who currently call Calgary home.”
The two panda cubs, Jai Panpan and Jai Yue Yue, are set to head to China in the new year as part of a breeding program the family of four are involved with.
The four giant pandas arrived at the Calgary Zoo from the Toronto Zoo in 2018.