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Panda-monium at the Zoo

Da Mao

Toronto welcomes China’s Er Shun and Da Mao to the Toronto Zoo after they traveled 18 hours in the FedEx Panda Express. They traveled in style with bamboo, bamboo shoots, apples, water and toys.  Considering they spend up to 16 hours a day eating, I’m sure they were only interested in the bamboo, but none-the-less they were traveling very comfortably.

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My 2.5 year old toddler and his friends have been beyond excited waiting to see the Pandas. The Toronto Zoo is fantastic at organizing kid-friendly events and you see how the little ones are eager to be a part of it. Mine is no exception, he has been telling everyone about “going to see pandas” and each time his face lightening up brighter than before.

After a reasonable wait, my little one runs up to the viewing area and says “Ni hao ma” to the Panda lying outside. He doesn’t realize that he is asking “how are you” in mandarin instead of hello (Ni hao) but it’s the effort that makes me smile. Even at his young age, he is exploring and learning a lot more about the world that he lives in.

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Giant pandas are endangered because of habitat destruction. There are approximately 1,600 wild Pandas living in China, but with fewer habitable living spaces and viable food sources their numbers are dwindling. As their national treasure, China is working hard to change this and has set up conservation programs with 63 panda reserves already established.

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Be prepared for a full-day of adventure at the Zoo. It is one of the largest zoos in the world with 287 hectares (710 acres). There are 10 km of walking trails with quite a few of them shaded by trees for the hot summer Toronto days. For nursing moms, there is a private nursing and change station near the gorilla exhibit. It is refreshing to have a large attraction like the zoo think of all the family members when designing their services.

For children under four, there are plenty of activities they can safely participate in.The Kids Zoo is an area with furry friends they can meet in person or dig for dinosaur bones in the sandbox.  Splash Island is a two-acre play area with small sprinkles for the wee ones. It has a change area so be sure to bring you swimming suit. The Waterside Theatre has family-themed shows. All are free with admission. There are also rides such as a zoomobile to help you move around to the different areas.

Visiting the Pandas at the Zoo is more than just a chance to have fun and learn about animals but even provides an opportunity to plant a seed introducing conservation to our children.  It is worth the trip to stop in and say “Ni hao” to the pandas. You may fall in love with them – or at the very least get a bear hug from one at the front gates. My son can’t walk by that spot without asking to see that panda bear again who just reached out and hugged him. It has left a lasting impression.

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