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The FedEx Panda Express – China to Canada

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Travelers can enjoy a new Panda at the Toronto Zoo!  You can read more on Fedex blog by Kathleen McCutcheon.

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Mar 18

The FedEx Panda Express – China to Canada


Toronto panda logoThis spring the Toronto Zoo welcomes two giant pandas as part of a new giant panda conservation initiative that they entered into with China in February 2012.  This will be the first time since 1985 that pandas have visited the Toronto Zoo and will strengthen the long-term conservation partnership agreement between China and Canada.

Er Shun (female) and Da Mao (male) will arrive in late March/early April at the FedEx Express tarmac at Toronto Pearson International Airport before being carefully transported to their quarantine area at the Zoo.  These two pandas were selected to come to Canada as they are an excellent genetic match for breeding.  They will spend five years in the Toronto Zoo before residing in the Calgary Zoo for an additional five years.

We are excited to have these two pandas visit Toronto for the next five years.  More about pandas:

  • At birth they weigh only .113 kilograms (four ounces) which makes moms 900 times larger than their newborn cubs.
  • It takes four years to be able to determine whether the panda is a male or female.
  • Their diet mainly consists of bamboo and they have opposable digits to help hold the bamboo while their strong teeth chew through the tough stalks.
  •  They spend most of their time sitting and eating, but they don’t hibernate like other bears because their food source is available year-round.
  • They can swim and climb trees
  • They make a bleating sound similar to a goat or lamb.
  • The Chinese call them “Big Bear Cat” because their eyes have vertical slits, similar to a cat’s
  • As per ancient Chinese tradition cubs are not named until 100 days after birth.


All About Bamboo – March 18, 2013

One of the most important things the Toronto Zoo needed to consider for the two giant pandas that will arrive on March 25th was how to maintain their finicky diet.  The Zoo will need to supply fresh bamboo for 80-90% of the panda’s diet and leaf eater biscuits, dog chow, apples and vitamins to make up the rest.

Giant pandas almost exclusively eat bamboo, but they’re not very efficient at digesting plant materials.  Their digestive system is more similar to a carnivore’s, with large muscular walls, and because of the pandas’ lazy lifestyle, not much protein is absorbed and little energy is provided from the bamboo diet. In order to get enough nutrients pandas have to eat, on average, 14-20 kilograms of bamboo every day, which takes them approximately 10-16 hours to eat!  As a result they often defecate up to 40 times each day.

Eating this much bamboo is no simple task!  Bamboo stalks are tough to chew through, but pandas have large, flat molars that allow them to crush and grind bamboo stalks and a thick mucus layer in their stomach to avoid getting splinters from the woody diet.  They also have an enlarged wrist bone that acts like an opposable digit similar to that of a human thumb, and helps them get a good grip on the stalks.

So where is all of this bamboo going to come from?  FedEx will be supplying continued support to Er Shun and Da Mao during their stay at the Toronto Zoo by transporting bamboo up from Memphis three times each week.  Pandas are picky eaters so FedEx will need to supply 600-900 kilograms of bamboo every week to sustain their diet.  The bamboo will be grown and harvested at the Memphis Zoo, which happens to be close to the main FedEx Hub, and will be carefully packaged in bundles, delivered and placed in cold storage once it arrives at the Toronto Zoo.


Getting Ready for Travel! – March 15, 2013

Written by Maria Franke, Curator of Mammals, Toronto Zoo

Panda enclosureThe giant pandas are coming and we are so excited to work with FedEx Express to bring them to the Toronto Zoo. FedEx has transported several pandas around the world in the past and they are now helping us bring Er Shun and Da Mao to Canada. There is so much to do before receiving these amazing creatures and one of the most important things is the safety and welfare of the animals. Several steps are taken including getting the animals use to their shipping enclosures so they feel comfy for the journey.

FedEx has crafted and built panda shipping enclosures specifically for giant pandas to ensure safe and easy handling. The enclosures are 198 cm L x 142 cm W x 137 cm H and weigh approximately 360 kg with removable side panels for easy access to the pandas for the on-board attendants.

Er Shun and Da Mao will have their own enclosures for the transport so no sharing on this trip! Each enclosure is already on its way to Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding (for Da Mao) and Chongqing Zoological Gardens, China (for Er Shun). The enclosures will be placed into Er Shun and Da Mao’s habitats so that they can see, smell, enter and overall get use to them well before the big departure date.

Partnering with FedEx on this very special shipment gives us peace of mind and we can’t wait for Er Shun and Da Mao to arrive and make their debut at the Toronto Zoo.


Creating the Panda Express – March 14, 2013

The FedEx® fleet includes 64 MD-11F aircraft and this month we have turned one of these planes into our very own Panda Express!  A huge panda decal was applied to the front end of this aircraft and this spring it will carry the pandas from Chengdu, China to Toronto, Canada.

The decal is almost 5.5 metres high and over 5.7 metres long and sits beside decals from the Toronto Zoo.  Check out the video of the decaling process of one of our previous Panda Express planes, which takes four days to complete between washing and drying the aircraft, applying the decals and the decal curing process.


The story of “Panda Diplomacy” – March 9, 2013

This spring the Toronto Zoo will be welcoming two giant pandas from Chengdu, China – and FedEx will be flying them into the country and delivering them directly to the Zoo.  It will mark an important day in our history here at FedEx, as it will be our first time being part of a Canadian state visit – considered one of the highest forms of diplomatic relations between two nations.

The opportunity to be a part of this monumental event all began in 2003 when the Chongqing Zoo and the Toronto Zoo signed an animal trading agreement with the vision of launching a giant panda conservation program here at the Toronto Zoo.  It took 12 years and the dedication of Zoo staff, board members and the Giant Panda Task Force, but in 2011 everything was finalized and two years later we are patiently awaiting the arrival of Er Shun and Da Mau.

Not only will the panda move make FedEx history, but it will also contribute to the history of “Panda Diplomacy”, or the use of pandas as diplomatic gifts, between the West and China.  These relationships stem back to the 1970’s and have made pandas a global symbol of diplomacy and lessened barriers to free trade – something that FedEx actively advocates – and something that is vital to Canada’s economic success.

Join us in welcoming the pandas to Toronto, Canada this spring where they’ll stay for the next five years before moving to the Calgary Zoo for an additional five years!


Why is Panda Conservation Important? – March 6, 2013

Pandas have been a strong candidate for wildlife conservation over the years, and the involvement of the Toronto Zoo in breeding programs and conservation efforts of these magnificent animals piqued FedEx’s interest.  We are looking forward to contributing to the panda population by making the technology advancements at the Toronto Zoo accessible to Er Shun and Da Mao.

Conservation of pandas has become increasingly important over the years.  When the giant panda was first discovered in China many were killed by Western museum collectors and hunters.  Then, in 1936 the first panda travelled across the world to the West because of the high interest in these animals.  Over the next 15 years 16 pandas were transported to Western Zoos, but none of them survived past 10 years because of the lack of expertise around their care and lack of access to dietary requirements, such as bamboo.

In 1949 when the People’s Republic of China was formed exporting pandas came to a halt.  It wasn’t until 1972 when diplomatic relations softened between the two nations that the shipment of pandas started up again.

Giant pandas are still listed on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Endangered Species and there are just over 2,000 left in the wild.  They have become a worldwide symbol of wildlife conservation, and have been made famous by their inclusion on the WWF logo.

The reason for the endangerment of giant pandas is mainly habitat destruction from human population increases and infrastructure expansion.  Today only six isolated mountain regions exist where pandas reside in central China.  With their natural habitat spread thin they face the risk of starvation and also have greater challenges when trying to mate.  Conservation programs have expanded as a result, and there are now 63 giant panda reserves in China.  These reserves are supported by global conservation efforts to preserve the natural habitats and promote breeding amongst pandas, of which the Toronto Zoo will now be a significant contributor.


The FedEx Newsroom has more information about the Toronto panda transportation.

*FedEx has a unique history of transporting pandas and other rare creatures around the world. Photos, video, and stories from recent panda transportations to Edinburgh, Scotland and Paris, France.