Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Calgary, Toronto Zoos Prepare to Welcome Pandas on Loan from China: Calgary, Toronto Prepare for Chinese Pandas

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Calgary, Toronto Zoos Prepare to Welcome Pandas on Loan from China: Calgary, Toronto Prepare for Chinese Pandas

Article excerpt

TORONTO - The details are fuzzy and the logistics are up in the air, but the cat's out of the bag _ pandas are coming to Canada.

A joint statement from Ottawa and the Chinese government announced that a pair of the doe-eyed bears would be loaned to Canadian zoos as part of collaborative research on conservation.

The Calgary Zoo confirmed on Thursday it would play host to the pandas for half of their 10-year stay, with the Toronto Zoo serving as home base for the remaining five years.

Zoo communications manager Laurie Skene said the two governments are still working out details, including the ages and genders of the animals and the zoo they'll visit first.

The Toronto Zoo declined to comment. Prime Minister Stephen Harper is scheduled to release more information on Saturday as part of his visit to China.

Skene said the Calgary Zoo is abuzz with the prospect of welcoming pandas back to the ground for the first time since 1988, when Qun Qun and Xi Xi's eight-month sojourn drew record crowds.

Negotiations surrounding the latest pair of pandas were in the works for nearly two years, she said, adding the original plan would have seen them spend time in three cities.

"It was always for a 10-year loan, but it initially involved three zoos which would have meant a shorter stay in each city," Skene said in a telephone interview.

"Now that it's just Toronto and Calgary that are going to be the participant zoos once everything's finalized,it's exciting that they'll be here for longer than we initially thought."

Skene said the pandas' arrival will usher in a host of logistical complications, including the question of where to house them. The zoo built a $900,000 enclosure in 1988, but changing standards may require the zoo to upgrade or even completely retool the facilities.

Some groups have expressed concern about Calgary's suitability for the task. National watchdog ZooCheck Canada said both the Toronto and Calgary venues have been dogged with financial problems that may prevent them from housing the animals adequately.

Campaign's director Julie Woodyer also voiced concern over Calgary's track record, which has been marred in recent years by a spate of animal deaths ranging from sting rays to baby elephants. …

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