Virus Outbreak: Calgary Zoo to return giant pandas

Virus Outbreak: Calgary Zoo to return giant pandas

But their stay in North America will be cut short because flights from China carrying fresh bamboo for their daily meals are at a fraction of pre-COVID-19 levels as worldwide air travel takes a major hit.

A Canadian zoo is sadly bidding farewell to two of its giant pandas after it was forced to send them home due to a bamboo shortage resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Bamboo makes up 99 per cent of the giant panda diet.

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

Shipping the animals away was not the zoo's first choice as they looked into working with alternate bamboo suppliers.

And they eat a lot: each adult consumes about 40 kilograms daily. Lanthier said the news came as a bit of a shock to the Chinese government. It's rather like crate-training a dog, with plenty of positive reinforcement, play with handlers in the crate and, of course, it's where they'll go if they want bamboo.

The two pandas arrived in Canada in 2013 as part of a 10-year agreement between Canada and China over the animal's protection and research. Lanthier said there are requests out to at least four airlines or cargo companies to fly them back home.

"It wasn't tasty enough", Lanthier said.

They'll travel with loads of bamboo to last them for the time in transit. "Conservation work with pandas should be occurring in China, not here", Laidlaw said.

In most other global zoos where pandas are exhibited, such as France, Spain and parts of Asia, their favourite bamboo can be grown locally. "This is too much stress on my team and on the pandas", said Clément Lanthier, head of the zoo.

No date has been set for when the pandas are to return to China, but Lanthier said he hopes that it could be accomplished within the next couple of weeks. "We urge the Canadian government and Chinese government to expedite the permit applications that have been submitted". Remarks containing abusive and obscene language, personal attacks of any kind or promotion will be removed and the user banned.

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