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Bamboo shortage forces Canada to send two giant pandas back to China

By Phoebe Zhang in Shenzhen, South China Morning Post

A CANADIAN zoo has decided to send two adult giant pandas back to China because the coronavirus pandemic has disrupted essential deliveries of fresh bamboo.

The Calgary Zoo said it previously had bamboo flown in from China directly, but flight cancellations had “removed this option”.

“The Calgary Zoo team has worked tirelessly with alternate bamboo suppliers to find a way to keep the giant pandas fed, despite misdirected shipments, slower than acceptable delivery times causing some poor quality bamboo that the giant pandas won’t eat, and concern with limited supplies,” the zoo said on Tuesday.

“Knowing a second wave of Covid-19 is likely, and the bamboo supply chain challenges will continue to negatively impact the zoo’s ability to bring bamboo to the giant pandas, the Calgary Zoo feels it’s critical to move the beloved giant pandas back to China where there are abundant local sources of bamboo as soon as possible,” the zoo said.

Giant pandas feed almost exclusively on fresh bamboo and each adult chews through about 40kg (88 pounds) of the plant every day.

“We believe the best and safest place for Er Shun and Da Mao to be during these challenging and unprecedented times is where bamboo is abundant and easy to access,” Calgary Zoo president and chief executive Clément Lanthier said, referring to the two pandas. “This was an incredibly difficult decision to make but the health and well-being of the animals we love and care for always comes first.”

Er Shun and Da Mao arrived in Canada in 2013 as part of a 10-year agreement between Canada and China. They spent five years at the Toronto Zoo and arrived in Calgary in March 2018 with their cubs, Jia Panpan and Jia Yueyue, who are already back in China.

The zoo said the pandas would be deeply missed by staff, volunteers, donors and visitors from around the world. Although in-person farewells were not possible during the zoo’s temporary closure, the public could see the pandas online through PandaCam, it said.

In all, 58 giant pandas in 17 countries are on loan from China, according to the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding in Sichuan province.

Finland is the most recent recipient, taking delivery of a pair in January 2018, while Bei Bei, who was on temporary loan to the Smithsonian’s National Zoo in the United States, was the last giant panda to return to China, in November 2019.


Top: The Calgary Zoo cannot guarantee supplies of fresh bamboo for its giant pandas.Photo: Calgary Zoo and published by South China Morning Post


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