Airline steps up to provide Calgary Zoo with bamboo for picky pandas

CALGARY — A culinary crisis has been avoided at the Calgary Zoo which was facing a bamboo shortage for its four giant pandas.

The pandas, which staff admit are picky eaters, munch on about 1,200 kilograms of bamboo a week.

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The zoo was left scrambling when Chinese airline Hainan announced it was discontinuing direct flights from China to Calgary at the end of October.

WestJet stepped forward and is now flying fresh bamboo on its cargo planes twice weekly from Toronto to Calgary.

The zoo says Hainan still flies to Toronto and hands off the panda food to WestJet.

The first shipment arrived on Oct. 26.

The Calgary Zoo says it began searching for a solution as soon as it heard about Hainan's plans.

"WestJet heard about the bamboo challenges and ... the WestJet cargo team offer(ed) to fly the bamboo shipments from Toronto to Calgary twice weekly," the zoo said in a news release.

"Since our giant pandas don’t like wilted bamboo, this was fantastic news as WestJet cargo also provides cool storage that ensures the pandas have access to the freshest bamboo possible."

WestJet said it is happy to help.

Two adult pandas and their two cubs came to Calgary in March 2018 from the Toronto Zoo.

The four-year-old cubs Jia PanPan and Jia YueYue are to return to a breeding facility in China in the new year. Their parents, Da Mao and Er Shun, are to stay in Calgary until 2023.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 7, 2019.

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