Two giant panda cubs were in a playful mood Monday as the Calgary Zoo introduced them and their parents to the general public.
The Calgary Zoo of Canada held a grand opening ceremony Monday morning to welcome four Chinese giant pandas, with dignitaries from the governments of China, Canada, Alberta province and Calgary city in attendance.
Calgarians finally get to meet the four pandas -- adult pandas Er Shun and Da Mao and their cubs Jia Panpan and Jia Yueyue which have settled here since the end of March.
Panda Passage at the Calgary Zoo is the new home for the four pandas. The adult pandas will live here for the next five years after having spent five years at the Toronto Zoo, and their cubs will return to China in one year and a half as part of an agreement between the two zoos and the Chinese government.
The Calgary Zoo will provide one million U.S. dollars to support the panda breeding program in China.
The panda family has moved into a brand new habitat that used to be the elephant enclosure. The zoo spent 100 million Canadian dollars (about 78 million U.S. dollars) renovating the space for the new tenants and hope they will be happy enough there to produce more cubs.
Taking good care of the pandas is a major undertaking, and the zoo has to fly in bamboo from China a couple of times a week. Each panda eats some 40 kilograms of bamboo every day.
"We are very excited about this, and we are for sure expecting big crowds," said Dr. Clement Lanthier, president and CEO of the Calgary Zoo.
The Calgary Zoo expects about 1.5 million visitors will come to see the pandas in the first year while contributing 18 million Canadian dollars (14 million U.S. dollars) to the local economy and creating 200 construction jobs and 40 new zoo-related positions.
The charming and elusive pandas represent one of the most iconic conservation species on the planet, and will help start conversations about conservation species in Canada.