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Bye-bye bears: Calgary Zoo returning pandas to China due to bamboo barriers

Last Updated May 12, 2020 at 11:00 am MST

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

CALGARY — The Calgary Zoo 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.

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.

The zoo’s president, Clement Lanthier, says the zoo spent months trying to overcome barriers in transporting fresh bamboo to the facility and has decided it’s best for the animals to be in China, where their main food source is abundant.

He says it was a difficult decision to make, but the health and well-being of the pandas come first.

Lanthier says transportation changes over the last two months destroyed bamboo supply lines the zoo depended on.

Giant pandas have unique nutritional requirements and 99 per cent of their diet is made up of fresh bamboo.

Each adult consumes approximately 40 kilograms daily.

This report from The Canadian Press was first published May 12, 2020 

The Canadian Press