A pair of giant pandas arrived this morning in Toronto, Canada only about a few minutes behind schedule on the so-called 15-hour Panda Express from Chengdu, China, a special FedEx flight donated by FedEx Express Canada. The flight was greeted by Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper who signed for the packages, noting that, “It’s not every day you get to sign for pandas.”
It’s the sixth time that FedEx has transported giant pandas, and they did a first class job. The whole plane was devoted to the pandas and their support staff, including veterinarians.
FedEx will also be regularly transporting fresh bamboo from China to Canada to feed the pandas, a bamboo-eating specialist.
The rare species is endemic to China, with around 1,600 remaining in the wild. The Chinese government leases the pandas at a cost of about $1,000,000 a year for the next 10 years, comparable to the cost of the pandas currently being leased to the Ueno Zoo in Tokyo, Japan.
Da Mao, at four, is a younger male, since female Er Shun is five years old. The animals are generally loners and will be placed together only during breeding season, which both Chinese and Canadian officials hope will lead to the creation of little pandas.
After the giant pandas clear a 30 day quarantine, they will spend five years on display in Toronto and another five years in Calgary.
But it wasn’t all smooth sailing. Er Shun was originally believed to be a male. Fortunately, the Chinese zoo officials analyzed her blood samples and realized that something was wrong. Her originally scheduled mate had to be changed for Da Mao, a verified male.
Want to know how to ship a giant panda? Don’t miss this video:
If the giant pandas successfully breed, it will be the first time the species has produced a cub in Canada.
[photo of giant pandas courtesy Chi King and Flickr]