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Giant Pandas at the Toronto Zoo

The Importance of Giant Panda Conservation

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Giant Panda From Chengdu Giant Panda Breeding Research Base

Giant Panda From Chengdu Giant Panda Breeding Research Base

John W Banagan / Getty Images

Updated: 05/16/2013

Our Giant Panda Guests

Two giant pandas arrived in Toronto March 2013 for a 10-year Canadian stay. They are settling in at the Toronto Zoo for an expected five year stay. They will then move to the Calgary Zoo for the second five years. The times are approximate as hopes are that they will breed, which could throw schedules off a bit.

Er Shun is the female panda. Her name means "double smoothness." She is five years old. She was born at the Chongqing Zoo in China and was raised by her mother. Her Chinese handlers say she is "docile yet lively."

Da Mao is the male panda. His name means "big fur." He is four years old. He was born through artificial insemination at the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding in China and was hand-reared. He is described as "a lively and tender gentleman."

Canada has hosted giant pandas before, but not in the last 20 years, and then for shorter times.

Giant Panda Conservation

The agreement between the Toronto and Calgary zoos and the Chinese Association of Zoological Gardens includes a commitment by the zoos to invest in research and the conservation of giant pandas.

The giant panda is one of the most endangered species in the world, and there are only about 2000 left in the wild. That is mainly due to habitat destruction from development and the resulting food shortages. Large-scale die-off of bamboo at intervals is another threat. Today, wild giant pandas live in only portions of six isolated mountain ranges in central China.

Giant pandas have some natural predators, but their worst threat is man. Some of man's activities, such as farming, illegal logging, and roads and railways fragmenting giant panda territories are serious threats.

Toronto Zoo Panda Conservation Research Plans

The Toronto Zoo plans to work with other zoos which have giant pandas to undertake studies in a variety of different areas that may improve the conservation of the pandas. Behavioural enrichment studies will be designed and conducted. Studies will also be coordinated in giant panda physiology and nutrition and in bamboo propagation. The Toronto Zoo is hoping to have more studies conducted through the Doctor of Veterinary Science postgraduate program it shares with the University of Guelph. The Toronto Zoo's reproductive physiology program, which has equipment and technical expertise, may also be able to play a role in helping giant panda conservation.

Did You Know?

  • a group of giant pandas is called a sleuth or sloth
  • giant pandas don't growl like bears. They bleat like lambs or kid goats.
  • giant pandas can swim
  • it's a tradition that giant pandas not be named until after they have been alive for 100 days
  • a giant panda weighs only .113 kg (4 ounces) at birth
  • female giant pandas are only receptive to breeding once a year for a period of 24 to 72 hours

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