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Toronto-bound pandas were coming to mate, except they're both females

Panda Er Shun eats bamboo at the Panda House at the Chongqing Zoo in Chongqing, China Saturday February 11, 2012. Two giant pandas including Er Shun will call Canada home for the next 10 years.

Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press

It's a girl!

It turns out that a giant panda, thought to be male and set to come to the Toronto Zoo from China in the spring, is actually female.

The surprise discovery happened when researchers in China collected and analyzed blood samples from the panda named Er Shun.

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"We're surprised," said John Tracogna, the Toronto Zoo's CEO. "But everything is back on track in identifying the two pandas that are coming – we're moving forward."

It's a good thing that researchers made the discovery in China. Once the pandas arrive in Canada, the Toronto Zoo will be attempting to breed a pair of cubs, the first experiment of its kind in Canada.

"Obviously you need a male and female for that," Mr. Tracogna said.

It's not uncommon to mistake the gender of younger giant pandas, Mr. Tracogna added.

Breeding the pandas is part of a five-year conservation, education and research program that also involves the Calgary Zoo.

The Chinese government has now selected another panda – this time definitely male – to make the journey to Canada.

Er Shun is still coming too, replacing the originally scheduled female panda.

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The two pandas will be part of the Toronto Zoo's Giant Panda Exhibit, set to open in May.

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About the Author
News reporter

Daniel Bitonti is a Vancouver-based reporter with The Globe and Mail. Before joining the bureau, Daniel spent six months on the copy desk in the Globe’s Toronto newsroom after completing a journalism degree at Carleton University. More


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