Giant panda twins reach new home in China after stay in Calgary

We knew it was coming, but does that make it hurt any less?

In early October, the Calgary Zoo announced that its male and female giant panda twins would be leaving soon for China.

And now that day has come. Early last Friday, the pair were loaded onto an airplane destined for their new habitat in China, the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding.

Calgarians seemed to have a special place in their hearts for the much fawned over panda twins, Jia Panpan and Jia Yueyue, whose names translate to mean Canadian Joy and Canadian hope. 

Their stay at the zoo began in March 2018, after coming from the Toronto Zoo, where they were born, a first of its kind in Canada.

A special exhibit space, Panda Passage, was built to house the cubs and two adult pandas on loan from China.

The presence of the twins drew crowds eager to see these not-so-little cubs roll around in the snow, snooze and munch on bamboo.

"We're proud to have contributed to panda research and conservation for their two-year stay with us," said Jamie Dorgan, Calgary Zoo's director of animal care.

"Jia Panpan and Jia Yueyue will be deeply missed by our staff, volunteers, community and, indeed, people right across North America who visited them during their stay in Canada."

The Calgary Zoo

According to China's guidelines, all giant pandas born outside of China must be returned when they are around four years old.

Now, the pair will live at the Chengdu Research Base, where they will likely take part in a breeding program.

To ensure a smooth transition of responsibility, the animal's caregivers in Chengdu came to Calgary last year in order to get acquainted with the pandas and their routines.

The twin's departure was a complicated effort and required the collaboration of teams at the Calgary International Airport, the International Animal Lounge YYC, Lufthansa Cargo and members of the Calgary Zoo. 

"We would like to thank our staff and transportation partners for their significant planning and hard work to get the giant panda cubs back home safely," said Dorgan.

Take heart, there are still two adult giant pandas at the Calgary Zoo to enjoy: female Er Shun and male Da Mao, who will stay in Calgary until sometime in 2023.