Compiled by Tatiana Patterson
Giant Pandas are making their return to Toronto after more than two decades.
Pandas Er Shun and Da Mao are being brought to the Toronto Zoo as part of a long term partnership between China and Canada, and are on loan for the next ten years.
On its website, the Toronto Zoo said it’s very proud and excited about the pandas and if breeding is successful, the pandas as well as their offspring will remain in Toronto until the Toronto Zoo approves to move them.
“This acquisition reflects the dedication of several Zoo staff and Board members over the past twelve years who shared the vision of a giant panda conservation program at the Zoo” said Joe Toezsok, Chair of the Toronto Zoo board, in the press release.
The pandas – a species on the brink of extinction – are classified as carnivorous mammals but have adopted a vegetarian diet made up of mostly bamboo. The Toronto Zoo ensured that the animals will be fed lots of bamboo as well as sugar cane, rice gruel and a mixture of fruits and vegetables.
Although a promise can be made regarding proper food choices, there’s no saying how the animals will adapt to a lifestyle behind bars.
People for Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) are against zoos because they say cages and cramped enclosures deprive animals of the opportunities to satisfy their most basic needs.
Kenneth Montville, College Campaigns Assistant for PETA 2, said that zoos are nothing more than animal prisons maintained for human amusement.
“They teach children that it’s acceptable to hold wild animals in captive areas seperate from their families and homes,” said Montville.
Montville said that keeping animals behind bars has great effects on mental health.
“Captivity drives animals insane,” he said. “It causes them to bar-bite, self-mutilate, pace and overgroom. The term for this is called zoochosis. It’s unheard of in free animals.”
The panda exhibit has been in talks since last year, when Prime Minister Stephen Harper went to China to speak at a ceremony at the Chongqing Zoo in Chongqing, China.
“This is going to be unprecedented for the zoo,” Coun. Giorgio Mammoliti told CBC in a report last year.
Pandas were first introduced at the Toronto Zoo in 1985 and attracted more than seven hundred people in three months.
Mammoliti told CBC he hopes the pandas will attract up to 3 million visitors annually, as a decline in zoo attendance could mean closure.
Chair of the Toronto Zoo board, Joe Toezsok, said money from the exhibit will support the conservation, education and research work.
“We’re absolutely certain this is no cost to taxpayers,” said Toezsok.
The “big bear cats” will grace the public in May.