The Toronto Zoo's two pandas arrived at Pearson this morning, and the welcoming ceremony included Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
Giant pandas arrived from China at Pearson International Airport to much fanfare today at about 10:50 a.m. The welcoming committee for Er Shun (female) and Da Mao (male), the first pandas the Toronto Zoo has hosted since 1985, included Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Mayor Rob Ford, and Zhang Junsai (China’s ambassador to Canada), among other dignitaries.
After Harper officially signed for the package—the pandas arrived on the “FedEx Panda Express” plane, with a specially trained flight crew—the prime minister and the China ambassador each said a few words about the significance of the pandas’ arrival in Canada. “Congratulations, Stephen Harper, for fulfilling the panda dream of the Canadian people, which couldn’t have come true without your personal commitment,” said Junsai.
Er Shun and Da Mao are being taken directly to the Toronto Zoo, where they will be quarantined for 30 days as zoo keepers monitor the bears’ health. The zoo’s panda exhibit is scheduled to open sometime in May, where the animals will remain for five years, in the hopes that the pair will breed and produce an adorable panda cub. It’s expected that sometime in 2018 the two will be moved to the Calgary Zoo for another five years. The Toronto Zoo predicts the pandas will attract an extra 300,000 visitors this year, with a 10 per cent boost to memberships.
The zoo is hoping that the boost in visitors, along with a $3 increase in admission price beginning in May, will help offset the price of its panda visitors. The Star reports that the zoo’s costs will run to $8 million for a newly renovated habitat, as well as $3 million each year in expenses.
Torontoist was on the scene as the pandas arrived at Pearson this morning and emerged from the plane in crates. Check out the photo gallery above for giant-sized cuteness and an absurd amount of fanfare.