The two pandas are expected to go on display in May.
After several years of negotiations between the Chinese and Canadian governments, the Toronto Zoo finally announced, earlier today, that its two giant pandas are scheduled to touch down on Canadian soil on March 25. The male/female breeding pair, named Da Mao and Er Shun, are expected to go on display in May.
For some reason, the zoo decided to make this historic announcement with a Harlem Shake video (embedded above). At least they found a decent dancer to go inside the full-body panda costume.
The Toronto Zoo hasn’t had pandas since 1985, when China sent some bears for a brief, three-month stay. Da Mao and Er Shun will be here for a minimum of five years, meaning there will be plenty of time for us to watch them eat bamboo and sleep—two things which, if we understand the Zoo’s press materials correctly, account for about 95 per cent of the average panda’s daily activities.
Bringing the pandas to Canada required a number of diplomatic interventions, both by Toronto politicians and by Prime Minister Stephen Harper himself, who personally announced the deal in February, during a trip to China.
The Toronto Zoo will reportedly pay an annual $1 million fee to China for the privilege of hosting the bears. Also, as part of the deal, the zoo is renovating an old tiger enclosure so the pandas can live there. The details of the new exhibit space are online, in PDF format.
After the pandas’ time in Toronto is up, they’ll go to Calgary for whatever remains of their ten-year loan period. According to the zoo’s press materials, Da Mao and Er Shun could end up remaining in Toronto longer than five years if they manage to produce a baby panda during their stay.
Also of interest: they’re being shipped by FedEx, albeit with more care than would be devoted to the average piece of business mail. Godspeed, pandas.
Robin Hale, the Toronto Zoo’s chief operating officer, now tells us that the $1 million annual fee is actually a mandatory contribution to China’s panda conservation program.