Justin Trudeau greets panda cubs on their naming day
Tuesday, March 8, 2016, 3:51 PM - The first giant pandas born in Canada had some special guests at their official naming day Monday.
Then two cubs were born late last year, and have been officially named Jia Yueyue ('Canadian Joy') and Jia Panpan ('Canadian Hope'). 'Jia', meaning Canadian, is a reference to the fact the cubs were born on Canadian soil. The cubs' mother, Er Shun, has been on loan to Canada from Chongqing, China, since 2013.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was on hand at the Toronto Zoo, along with Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne and Toronto Mayor John Tory.
"The panda is a symbol of peace and friendship, which is fitting, considering Canada’s ever-growing relationship with China," Trudeau said, according to the Toronto Star. "The birth of these pandas on the 45th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Canada and China is a wonderful and serendipitous coincidence."
Er Shun fell pregnant via artificial insemination last year. She and a male panda, Da Mao, arrived in Canada in 2013 to begin a 10-year stay, divided between the Toronto Zoo and the Calgary Zoo.
Riding the coat-tails of pandas' popularity with the public seems to be a Canadian tradition.
Then-Prime Minister Stephen Harper met Er Shun and Da Mao when they arrived at Pearson International Airport in Toronto in 2013. In October 2015, on hearing the news that Er Shun was pregnant with twins, the Conservative Party issued a tongue-in-cheek election campaign pledge to double the Canadian panda population by 2016.
The Ontario climate isn't exactly similar to the high rugged mountain terrains of central China where wild pandas roam, but the Toronto Zoo keeps them appropriately housed in an enclosure with indoor and outdoor holding areas.
Though the panda population of Canada has, indeed, doubled, they are in decline worldwide.
The International Union for the Conservation of Nature lists pandas as an endangered species, with around 1,000 to 2,000 individuals believed to remain in the wild. Aside from habitat loss from human activity, climate change is also putting the squeeze on the bamboo the bears rely on for nourishment.
SOURCES:Toronto Star | CBC News | Globe and Mail