On March 25, FedEx Express completed the safe delivery of two giant pandas from China to the Toronto Zoo following months of preparations and public anticipation.

The giant pandas, breeding pair Er Shun (female) and Da Mao (male), made the journey from Chengdu, China, to the FedEx Express Canadian Hub at Toronto Pearson International Airport, aboard a specially branded MD-11 aircraft donated by FedEx.

The pandas arrived at 10:47 a.m. EDT after an 18-hour trip. FedEx Express, the Toronto Zoo and the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding collaborated extensively to ensure all necessary precautions were taken to provide a safe and comfortable flight for the pandas. Animal care experts were granted special flight privileges to accompany the pandas onboard the aircraft.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper was present at the airport to officially sign for Canada’s receipt of the giant pandas on a FedEx PowerPad handed to him by Lisa Lisson, President of FedEx Express Canada. “Today is significant for Canadians as it marks an important symbol of trade and diplomacy between our country and China. As the world’s global transportation leader, FedEx understands first-hand the opportunity and potential that comes with strengthened relationships and improved global connectivity, all of which is wrapped into the symbolism of today’s delivery,” said Ms. Lisson. “As excited as we are about facilitating this exchange between Canada and China, I can attest that our 6,000-strong team of employees, from coast to coast, are as eagerly excited about the prospects of a giant panda cub being born on Canadian soil.” Preparations for the flight had commenced ten days earlier with the pandas being introduced gradually to their specially designed crates. The pandas enjoyed in-flight catering with lots of apples, bamboo and water being served as needed, and were accompanied by lots of stuffed animals, which apparently make them feel more at ease.

Following their arrival, Er Shun and Da Mao were transported by two FedEx Express trucks to the Toronto Zoo where they began a five-year stay before transferring to Calgary. The specially branded FedEx Express trucks will stay in service throughout the giant pandas’ stay in Toronto, delivering 600 to 900 kilograms of fresh bamboo supplies two to three times a week, courtesy of the Memphis Zoo.

As announced by Prime Minister Stephen Harper on February 11, 2012, the cooperative conservation agreement with China marked the first time in more than twenty years that a giant panda has been loaned to a Canadian zoo. The agreement also marked the first time the Chinese government has granted a 10-year loan of breeding giant pandas to any international zoo in the world.

Following a mandatory quarantine, the giant pandas will be on view to the public at a newly constructed, state-of-the-art giant panda exhibit at the Toronto Zoo sometime in mid-May (exact date to determined). The program will allow the Toronto Zoo to contribute to ongoing international efforts to protect and increase the population of the endangered giant pandas through investments in research and conservation efforts. Currently, conservationists estimate that there are just over 2,000 giant pandas left in the wild. “We are honoured to have giant pandas, Er Shun and Da Mao, arrive at the Toronto Zoo and we look forward to the opportunity of contributing to the survival of this beautiful species for generations to come,” said John Tracogna, CEO, Toronto Zoo. “The Toronto Zoo is thrilled to join the small group of countries and highly respected zoo organizations outside of China that have conservation and research programs, professional expertise and the facilities to provide excellent care for a breeding pair of pandas.”