Giant pandas are super cute, and other facts
Giant panda named Yang Guang explores his enclosure at Edinburgh Zoo in Edinburgh, Scotland, in this file photo dated Monday, Dec. 12, 2011.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper has spent much of the last week in China, alternatively hand shaking and bowing humbly, as circumstances required.
Canada's champion secured several agreements, goodwill treaties and strategic partnerships over the course of his visit, with one announcement standing heads and tails above the rest.
We're getting some pandas!
The Chinese government has agreed to loan a pair of giant pandas to Canada, with the cuddly creatures spending 10 years at zoos in Toronto and Calgary.
Beyond being adorable, which they are, here are 10 things you may or may not know about giant pandas.
- The panda's odd black and white fur is believed by some scientists to have originated as a type of camouflage. Coming mostly from the mountain ranges in China, the colouring gave pandas cover against the snow and rock background.
- According to one ancient myth, giant pandas were once entirely white until a little girl died trying to save one from a marauding leopard. The pandas coated their legs in ashes as a symbol of mourning and tears darkened their eyes.
- Ming Ming, known as the world's oldest giant panda, died in May 2011 at the age of 34. During her time she visited zoos in London, Dublin and Chengdu before spending her final days at the Xiangjiang Wild Animal World in China's Guangdong Province.
- Giant pandas eat mostly (like, almost entirely) bamboo. They were carnivorous once, but subsist mostly off this one food (those in the wild still dabble). They also enjoy water, and have been known to drink so much that they appear drunk. Which is adorable, objectivity be damned.
- Adult giant pandas are generally loners in the wild, staking out a small territory and sticking to it, except to mate in the spring. Children stay with mommy for about three years, and then it is off to the bamboo factory.
- Canada is not the first country to be the target of panda diplomacy, China's act of endearing themselves to countries by gifting them the adorable creatures. The Tang Dynasty (624-705) first sent a pair of pandas to Japan's emperor as a goodwill gesture. More recently, and most famously, U.S. President Richard Nixon scored a panda pair in 1972.
- Canada has angled for a taste of panda diplomacy in the past. In 1973, Pierre Trudeau attempted to smooth relations with the communist country by presenting them with two pairs of beavers. Instead of pandas, China offered him a Chinese elk in return.
- The Toronto Zoo hasn't hosted pandas since 1985. Quinn Quinn and Sha Yan lived at the park for three months, during which "Panda Fever" brought millions of residents and tourists in for a visit.
- There were less than 1,600 giant pandas still living in the wild as of 2004. China has established over 50 panda reserves, which protect more than 2.5 million acres of wildlife.
- Captive pandas are often unenthusiastic about mating, furthering the dangers of extinction. To combat this, some zoos have shown the animals videos of other pandas in the throes of passion to … set the mood.