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Coronavirus: Calgary Zoo to reopen on May 23 — but you won’t get to say bye to the giant pandas

Click to play video: 'Calgary Zoo reopens May 23 with Zooventure Experience' Calgary Zoo reopens May 23 with Zooventure Experience
WATCH (May 22, 2020): Global News' Blake Lough speaks with Alison Archambault about the Calgary Zoo’s reopening on May 23 and what will be changed at the facility amid COVID-19. – May 22, 2020

The Calgary Zoo announced Saturday it will be reopening its doors to the public with reduced capacity and online tickets on May 23, citing approval from Alberta Health Services.

Since closing on March 16, the zoo said it implemented extensive health measures and surveyed people to understand how to make them feel safe during the new, one-way, outdoor-only, limited-capacity experience called Zooventure.

“We’ve been working really closely and collaborating with Alberta Health Services to make sure that we’re offering an experience that keeps people safe and is informed with public health directives,” said Alison Archambault, the zoo’s director of brand and engagement.

All outdoor viewing areas will be open and certain habitats will be adjusted so everyone can keep a safe distance.

“Visitors will choose their own adventure as they follow one-directional playful pawprints that take them through the zoo in a self-guided way, mixed with fun animal facts,” the zoo said in a press release.

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A burrowing owl is seen at the Calgary Zoo on Friday, Jan. 25, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

The zoo said stickers will encourage people to keep three — rather than two — metres apart.

“You really know where you need to stand and where you shouldn’t be standing so that you’re not infringing on others’ places,” Archambault said.

Visitors must buy a timed ticket online because tickets will not be sold at the zoo. The organization added that front-line and essential workers who received complimentary tickets do not require a timed ticket.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: Calgary Zoo donates 12,000 entry tickets to essential staff working through the pandemic

Washrooms will be open and the zoo said crews are stepping up spraying and sanitizing protocols.

Food and drink service and outdoor seating will be open, with limited indoor seating at Kitamba.

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Water fountains, playgrounds, the Discovery Centre and the ENMAX Conservatory will be closed until further notice.

Archambault said the zoo has adjusted hours and pricing.

Can I say bye to the pandas?

No, unfortunately.

READ MORE: Calgary Zoo says giant pandas heading back to China

The zoo said on May 12 that it will be returning two giant pandas on loan from China because the COVID-19 pandemic has caused problems with getting enough bamboo to feed them.

“The supply chain remains fragile to get bamboo to Calgary regularly for them,” Archambault said.

One giant panda eats about 38 kilograms of bamboo per day, according to the zoo.

Da Mao, an adult male panda bear, looks on as media photograph him at the Calgary Zoo during the opening of its giant panda habitat, Panda Passage, on Monday, May 7, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

Er Shun and Da Mao arrived in Calgary in 2018 after spending five years at the Toronto Zoo and were scheduled to remain in the Alberta city until 2023.

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“We have made our community aware of our intentions to relocate the giant pandas back to China, where food is local and abundant because we’ve been having lots of difficulties sourcing food for the pandas during the pandemic,” Archambault said.

“Their quarantine has begun. So we don’t have travel dates confirmed yet. But as their quarantine has begun, we won’t be including them as part of our Zooventure.”

READ MORE: The Calgary Zoo panda cubs have gone to China

The panda cam is not an option either.

Archambault explained it was part of a contractual agreement with China, and as soon as the zoo announced their relocation, the camera had to be suspended.

“We know that was disappointing for folks wanting one last glimpse of Er Shun and Da Mao but that just isn’t possible for us,” she said.

“We will make sure to include them on our Facebook when we can and we are super hopeful that they’re going to be relocated as soon as possible.”

Da Mao, an adult male panda bear, looks on at the Calgary Zoo during the opening of its giant panda habitat, Panda Passage, on Monday, May 7, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

Instead, the zoo will do a Facebook live with the pandas “so folks that are missing seeing their beautiful faces can get a chance to lay eyes on them” in addition to a goodbye video the zoo will release when they depart, Archambault said.

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