Toronto: Gearing up for the arrival of a pair of giant pandas from China next spring, the Toronto Zoo has unveiled its plans for the new giant panda exhibit in a groundbreaking ceremony.
The ceremony Thursday featured a Chinese lion dance, a sneak peak at the future exhibit construction, two panda mascots and a ceremonial planting of bamboo and a red maple tree symbolizing the partnership between Canada and China. It marked the official countdown to the arrival of Er Shun and Ji Li, the two five-year-old pandas, reported Xinhua.
It is a project over a decade in the making.
John Tracogna, the zoo`s CEO, said they have been working on getting pandas to Toronto - Canada`s largest city located in the province of Ontario - for nearly 13 years now. But it was Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper who sealed the deal when he paid a state visit to China back in February.
Tracogna says they are getting ramped up as the pair`s arrival date quickly approaches.
"It`s a milestone," he said. "We hope it will showcase the many facets of the Toronto Zoo in terms of its conservation, research and animal care programs we have here."
The loan, which is part of a long-term conservation partnership between the two countries, will mean that the pair of pandas will get to spend five years first at the Toronto Zoo before they head over to Calgary, in the province of Alberta, for the remainder of the 10-year agreement.
The last time Toronto had pandas at the zoo was in 1985, when the zoo saw a record attendance of 1.9 million visitors during the three-month exhibit.