I was pretty excited last fall when I heard that Er Shun, the female panda at the Toronto Zoo (currently on loan from China) had given birth to two cubs.
Here they are on Day 1 – October 13, 2015.
As everyone knows, giant pandas are very rare in the wild and have become the symbol of the plight of endangered species all over the world.
Conservationists have struggled over the years to successfully breed pandas in captivity. Jason G. Goldman of Gizmodo.com has written an excellent article (which can be found at http://gizmodo.com/giant-panda-breeding-efforts-have-actually-been-really-1614308529 ) summing up the issue.
He states that “pandas are typically thought of as a lost cause. They’re one of the most endangered species on the planet; just 2500 giant pandas live in the wild.”
“Until as recently as the 1990s, efforts were indeed plagued by low rates of conception and high rates of disinterest among matched pairs. Even when a panda cub was born, they were not likely to survive very long. Only 30 percent of captive giant pandas successfully reproduced, and of those cubs, more than 60 percent died in infancy.”
Here are the Toronto Zoo pandas at one month old:
It has been only recently that we seem to have figured all this out a little more. Humans are now breeding pandas with “artificial insemination, either with freshly collected or with frozen and thawed sperm. The process is now routine at panda breeding centers, both in China and abroad. Second, the care for newborn pandas has improved tremendously. A large proportion of neonatal deaths can be attributed to the intentional “discard” of one of two twins by a panda mother. More recently, however, husbandry techniques have been developed for the successful rearing of panda cubs by humans. In 2002, neonatal survival had increased to 71%.”
There are three main panda breeding centres in China, and in fact, the number of captive-born pandas now exceeds the number of pandas born in the wild (!)
This is the first time that pandas have been born in Canada.
They had a special naming ceremony on March 7, 2016. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne, and Toronto mayor John Tory were among those in attendance.
Here is our PM holding Jia Panpan, which means Canadian Hope, and Jia Yueyue, which means Canadian Joy.
The cubs went on display to the public on March 12th when they were five months old. On April 10th, I got to visit the panda cubs myself (although I didn’t get to hold them – you only get to do that if you are an extremely media-savvy and photogenic Prime Minister 🙂
Here are some of my photos of the cubs. They were very sleepy at first:
…so we decided to visit again a little later.
When we came back, there was a lot of excitement around the exhibit and a fair-sized lineup (although I am sure it will be nothing compared to the crowds that will gather to visit in the summertime).
When we got close enough to see (IT SEEMED LIKE AN ETERNITY TO ME :-), we discovered that the two cubs were very active AND panda mom Er Shun was in their enclosure interacting with them ! ! ! 🙂
It was a little hard to get good, clear photos because the babies were so energetic and wouldn’t sit still for a moment!
Here is an adorable video that my friend took.
The Toronto Zoo’s website has tons of photos and videos of the cubs. If you haven’t had enough yet, follow this link:
Information about panda breeding efforts:
Newborn pandas: http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2015/10/13/giant-panda-cubs-born-at-toronto-zoo.html
WWF logo: https://c402277.ssl.cf1.rackcdn.com/photos/9031/images/original/WWF_25mm_no_tab.png
Panda in the wild: http://cdn1.arkive.org/media/02/02F80C71-1E2C-4414-BBAD-111D7146B8F0/Presentation.Large/Wild-giant-panda-resting-in-tree-canopy.jpg
One month old: http://www.torontozoo.com/giantpandacubs/img/Toronto-Zoo-Giant-Panda-Cubs-at-One-Month.jpg
Videos of cubs at 8 weeks and 4 months : http://www.cbc.ca and Youtube.com
Naming ceremony video: http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2016/03/07/baby-pandas-to-make-first-public-appearance-today.html
Justin Trudeau with cubs: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/twin-panda-cubs-names-revealed-1.3478751