A pair of beloved, young, furry, black-and-white residents of the Calgary Zoo’s Panda Passage are gone.
Jai Panpan and Jai Yueyue have left their temporary home and are safely in China, leaving mom and dad Er Shun and Da Mao behind.
The zoo said on Monday that the cubs flew to China last Friday. They’ve lived in Calgary for the last two years.
The pandas didn’t fly as unaccompanied minors though, as the zoo sent several staff members, including a panda keeper and veterinarian, for the entire trip, as well as their first few days in their new home.
The cubs are no strangers to their new keepers, the zoo said, as members from their new home at the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding in China came to Calgary last year to visit with the bears, getting to know their routines and personalities.
“We would like to thank our staff and transportation partners for their significant planning and hard work to get the giant panda cubs back home safely,” the zoo’s director of animal care, Jamie Dorgan said.
“We’re proud to have contributed to panda research and conservation for their two-year stay with us and are excited for that to continue for the next three years.
“Jia Panpan and Jia Yueyue will be deeply missed by our staff, volunteers, community and indeed people right across North America who visited them during their stay in Canada.”
The zoo shared two new photos of the bears, one of them at Panda Passage in Calgary and another of them in their new home in China.
The cubs were originally supposed to leave before the end of 2019, but complications in getting the pandas out of the country delayed their trip.
The cubs are headed to China to participate in a breeding program, which was part of the long-term plan for the bears.
The cubs were born at the Toronto Zoo as part of the same breeding program that panda parents Er Shun and Da Mao are also a part of.
The Calgary Zoo tried in April 2019 to artificially inseminate 12-year-old Er Shun, but it was announced in October that the process wasn’t successful and she wasn’t pregnant.