Pandas leave Canada for China after bamboo shortage cuts short Panda Diplomacy

Verity Bowman
·2-min read
A giant panda climbs a branch -  Tony Shi Photography/Getty Images
A giant panda climbs a branch - Tony Shi Photography/Getty Images

Two giant pandas are to return to China after Canada suffered a shortage of bamboo due to the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Calgary Zoo has been working since May to repatriate Er Shun and Da Mao after it became clear their bamboo supply - the pandas’ main food source - was dwindling to worrying levels. 

In the last few months the zoo has spoken openly about the complications in securing international permits for the pair, but now they are set to make the journey home. 

“After months and months of hard work to secure international permits to get our beloved giant pandas home to China,” the zoo posted to Facebook. “Today is the day!”

The pandas, who arrived in 2014, were due to stay in Canada for 10 years as part of an agreement between the two nations. The decision was widely dubbed “panda diplomacy”. 

Imports from China made sure that Er Shun and Da Mao had a healthy and consistent diet during their time abroad. 

Around 99 per cent of the pandas’ diets is made up of fresh bamboo, with up to 88lbs of it consumed by each panda everyday. 

But as flights were grounded by the coronavirus outbreak in March, the Alberta-based zoo was left struggling to keep up with the panda’s appetites. 

The zoo said domestic imports were “poor quality” and took too long to arrive. Often Er Shun and Da Mao would refuse to eat it. 

Just two months later it was announced the pair would return to China three years earlier than expected, so their diets could be better maintained. 

The zoo faced considerable delays in making sure they had the correct transport to fly them home. 

"The continued delays in international permitting is putting the health and welfare of these two beautiful giant pandas in jeopardy," Calgary Zoo president Clément Lanthier said at the time.

Those who want to keep up with the pandas during their journey and after they arrive in China are advised by the zoo to check its social media accounts for updates.