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Canada zoo to return pandas to China because bamboo too hard to get during pandemic

The best and safest place for Er Shun and Da Mao during these unprecedented times is where bamboo is abundant and easy to access, Calgary Zoo says.
Image: Calgary Zoo Panda
Da Mao, an adult male panda bear, looks on as media photograph him at the Calgary Zoo during the opening of its giant panda habitat, Panda Passage, in Calgary, Alberta, Canada on May 7, 2018. The zoo has decided to send two adult giant pandas back to China because the coronavirus epidemic has disrupted essential deliveries of fresh bamboo.Jeff McIntosh / The Canadian Press via AP file

Two giant pandas in Canada will be heading back to China because their main meal, fresh bamboo, was getting too difficult to find during the pandemic, officials at Calgary Zoo in Canada said.

The bamboo for Er Shun and Da Mao was flown directly from China and then, when the pandemic reduced flights, on transfers from Toronto, the zoo said Tuesday. But even those flights have been reduced, making the adult bears' favored food supply shaky.

Shipments have gone to the wrong place, delivery times have been longer and the pair just won't eat some of the bamboo, zoo officials said.

"We believe the best and safest place for Er Shun and Da Mao to be during these challenging and unprecedented times is where bamboo is abundant and easy to access," Calgary Zoo President and CEO Clément Lanthier said in a statement.

Bamboo composes 99 percent of the bears' diet, and each one eats about 88 pounds of it in a day, according to the zoo.

The duo arrived in Calgary in March 2018 after spending time at the Toronto Zoo. They were originally scheduled to stay in Canada for nearly four more years.

Er Shun and Da Mao are expected to leave without goodbyes from the public because the zoo is closed temporarily. The city of Calgary is still under modified stay-at-home orders.

"This was an incredibly difficult decision to make but the health and well-being of the animals we love and care for always comes first," Lanthier said.