MARCH 25, 2013: THE GOOD NEWS BEARS ARRIVE
Female panda Er Shun and her mate, Da Mao – then five and four years old, respectively – got a celebrity greeting from politicians and media at the Toronto airport upon their arrival in Canada. Prime minister Stephen Harper was on hand to greet the bears, whose travel to Canada he had helped to arrange at a five-day trip to China a year earlier. Pandas, an endangered species native to China, are carefully meted out by Beijing to reward its foreign allies, and their arrival was hailed at the time as a sign of thawing relations between Beijing and Ottawa.
These pandas will help us learn more about one another while serving as a reminder of our deepening relationship, a relationship based on mutual respect and growing collaboration. It is truly an honour to be entrusted with their care.Stephen Harper on the pandas’ arrival
To relive those heady days when the bears came among us, check out Mark MacKinnon’s report on Mr. Harper’s trip to China; Susan Krashinsky’s report on the FedEx “Panda Express” that brought them to Canada; and Peter Scowen’s explanation of four weird, dark things to know about pandas.
2015: PREGNANCY PANDA-MONIUM BEGINS
Getting pandas to breed in captivity is exceedingly difficult, and the Toronto zoo tried unsuccessfully to get Er Shun pregnant with Da Mao’s sperm. Another attempt in May, 2015, with frozen sperm from two giant pandas in China yielded better results; the female panda had twins. The two were born on Oct. 13, 2015, less than a week before the election in which Justin Trudeau’s Liberals defeated Mr. Harper’s Conservatives. The two cubs, one male and one female, were being held in a special maternity area until their Toronto debut today.
MARCH 7, 2016: THE TWINS MAKE THEIR DEBUT
Mr. Trudeau and Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne were among those who got a first glimpse of the male and female cubs, who were named Jia Panpan (“Canadian hope”) and Jia Yueyue (“Canadian joy”), respectively. It’s hoped the cubs will be introduced to the general public later this month.
CHRIS YOUNG/THE CANADIAN PRESS
The panda is a symbol of peace and friendship, which is fitting considering Canada’s ever-growing relationship with China. The birth of these pandas on the 45th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Canada and China is a wonderful and serendipitous coincidence.Justin Trudeau
With reports from The Canadian Press, Timothy Appleby and Mark MacKinnon