Giant pandas slept, snacked and passed gas on flight home

·2 min read

How did the two giant pandas from the Calgary Zoo make it to the Chongqing Zoo in China?

With lots of snacks, crate training, naps and animal flatulence.

"They fart … a lot," said Calgary Zoo CEO and president Clement Lanthier on The Homestretch.

The two pandas, female Er Shun and male Da Mao, were loaded via crates onto and airplane at the Calgary International Airport early Friday morning.

Animal keepers had been training the pandas to get in and out of their crates and eat in their crates for weeks, said Lanthier.

"The caregivers have been training the pandas to feel safe and to feel comfortable in the crate," he said.

"The attendant told me that they slept all the way from Calgary to Frankfurt."

The pandas had to be sent back to China three years earlier than was planned due to issues of securing a steady supply of bamboo, their diet staple, during the pandemic.

"Since the early COVID-19, we had a very severe disruption of the supply chain, so we could not secure bamboo on a regular basis," said Lanthier.

"Every week, every second week, that was a problem … mostly on the transportation of bamboo, because of the lower capacity in the airplane, on the cargo plane or in the trucking business."

Moving the animals, Lanthier said, "was extremely complicated," because not only were several permits needed, but China had recently changed its quarantine requirements.

"They had to go through Frankfurt because the only carrier that was willing and able to accommodate the need was Lufthansa."

Er Shun and Da Mao landed in China sometime on Saturday, Calgary time, but it was already Sunday in China, said Lanthier.

The Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding — where cubs Jia Panpan and Jia Yueyue resided after departing from the Calgary Zoo in January — was under renovation, so the two adults had to be transported to the nearby Chongqing Zoo for their quarantine.

Lanthier said he wants to "acknowledge the sacrifice and the commitment of the staff" who travelled with the pandas.

Right now, they, too, are quarantined, but in Chengdu, apart from the pandas. They will also have to quarantine when they return to Canada.

"We are extremely relieved to see the pandas back in China where the bamboo is abundant," said Lanthier.

The pair arrived in Canada in 2013, and they lived for five years at the Toronto Zoo — and where twins Jia Yueyue and Jia Panpan were born — before being moved to Calgary.

They were supposed to stay in Canada for 10 years as part of an agreement between Canada and China before the pandemic cut that short.

With files from Nassima Way and The Homestretch.