TORONTO, Feb. 11, 2012 /CNW/ - The Toronto Zoo (the Zoo) today announced it will receive two breeding giant pandas in spring 2013; the result of an agreement between Hu Jintao, President of China and Mr. Stephen Harper, Prime Minister of Canada, to loan two giant pandas to Zoos in Canada as part of a long-term conservation partnership between China and Canada. Mr. John Tracogna, CEO, Toronto Zoo was in attendance and signed the agreement with the Chinese Association of Zoological Gardens (CAZG).
"We are honoured to host the pandas at the Toronto Zoo and contribute to the survival of the species for generations to come," said Mr. Tracogna, CEO, Toronto Zoo. "The Toronto Zoo is thrilled to join the small group of countries and highly respected zoo organizations outside of China that have the conservation and research programs, professional expertise, and facilities to provide excellent care for a breeding pair of pandas."
The giant panda exhibit will open in the spring 2013, and will be open during the 2015 Pan Am Games in Toronto, adding to the increase of attendance figures anticipated during that event. Previously, when pandas were at the Toronto Zoo in 1985 for a short-term loan of three months, the Zoo experienced its highest annual attendance ever at 1.9 million visitors.
The two giant pandas are both currently five years old. The female named "ji Li" (English translation: "pretty/achievement") is from Chengdu and the male named "Er Shun" (English translation: "smooth") is from Toronto's sister city of Chongqing.
The Zoo will receive the pair for a minimum five-year term (2013-2018). The pandas will relocate to the Calgary Zoo sometime in 2018. In the event that breeding is successful while the pair are at the Toronto Zoo, the pandas and offspring would remain in Toronto until such time it is approved to move them.
"This acquisition reflects the dedication of several Zoo staff, Board members and friends of the Zoo over the past twelve years who shared the vision of a giant panda conservation program at the Zoo," said Joe Torzsok, Chair of the Toronto Zoo Board. "We would like to take this opportunity to express our appreciation for the hard work and dedication of the Giant Panda Task Force and other individuals over the years that have helped bring this program to fruition."
Giant panda conservation is a large part of the Zoo's 25-year master redevelopment plan. The Zoo plans to renovate an existing exhibit, currently housing the Amur tiger, and adjacent space, to make room for the pandas during their visit. Construction is expected to begin in the coming months.
About the Toronto Zoo
The Toronto Zoo is Canada's premier zoo and a leader in animal preservation and environmental protection. More than a tourist attraction, the Toronto Zoo boasts a number of leading programs for helping animals and their natural habitats - from species reintroduction to reproductive research. A world-class educational center for people of all ages, the Toronto Zoo is open every day except Christmas, and attracts approximately 1.3 million visitors each year. www.torontozoo.com
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