After a greatly anticipated, five-year wait, the pandas have arrived at the Calgary Zoo. Panda parents Er Shun and Da Mao, and their two kids Jia Panpan and Jia Yueyue, are ready to welcome zoo guests to their new habitat as of Monday, May 7. The panda exhibit at the zoo is beautifully designed with Asian themes including an indoor bamboo forest and open indoor areas that mimic their natural habitat. There is also an expansive outdoor space that the four furry foreigners can explore. An added bonus: the Komodo Dragons now live in the same location, so your lizard lovers will enjoy visiting these famous critters at the same time.
Here are 7 cool facts you will want to know about our panda visitors (and the zoo) before your visit.
1. Pandas are the oldest bears
These furry creatures were around when woolly mammoths roamed the earth. While the adorable panda cubs Jia Panpan and Jia Yueyue (seen here) may not look too old, pandas have been referred to as “living fossils”. Living fossils are creatures who closely resemble organisms that are on the fossil record. So while pandas typically live for up to 20 years, they have an interesting family tree!
2. Pandas only exist in China
If you’re hoping to do some panda spotting in the wild, you’re going to have to take a long trip! This rare bear species can be found in six different mountain locations, and live in damp, cool, misty environments among the bamboo trees. You’ll notice that misty feeling when you visit the pandas at the zoo (a much shorter trip!).
3. Pandas have no thumbs
These furry friends only have four digits on their hands, but they have a special wrist bone which functions as a thumb and helps them when pulling apart the bamboo. It helps that they’ve got sharp teeth as well.
4. Pandas have the strongest jaws in the animal kingdom
Yes, it’s true: stronger than lions, tigers and all those predators who are chewing on bone! Given their diet of bamboo, they need to have strong jaws to take apart that hard covering to get to the good stuff inside!
5. When born, baby pandas are SUPER tiny
Newborns are 1/900th of the size of their mothers and don’t open their eyes until six to eight weeks later. They are so tiny because of their mothers’ bamboo diet, which has very little nutrition, so they actually receive more nutrition from the milk mom produces outside of the womb than inside.
6. Pandas can eat up to 90 lbs of bamboo a day
That’s a lot of food to consume! Because of its minimal nutrition, pandas need to eat that much to survive. Even though pandas are descended from carnivores, apparently they lost the gene that allowed them to enjoy the taste of meat over 4 million years ago. With a 99% bamboo diet, you will see the pandas at the zoo enjoy fruit as well for a treat.
7. The Calgary Zoo is one of the oldest charities in Canada
With a rich history, the zoo is not only focused on wildlife conservation, but on environmental sustainability. Aside from their amazing animals, we love that they are constantly looking for ways to engage the families that come to visit – from sleepovers to interactive Lemur cages, they are always trying out new ideas and bringing in new visitors for everyone to enjoy. And now they’re offereing you the chance to visit these rare and cuddly pandas.