Panda war nearly sparked after Toronto councillor tells Calgary it's not getting cubs

Coun. Georgio Mammoliti is apologizing for almost starting a panda war between Calgary and the Big Smoke.

Coun. Georgio Mammoliti says he misspoke

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau cuddled with the Toronto Zoo's panda cubs, Jia Panpan and Jia Yueyue, in Toronto on Monday. (@JustinTrudeau/Twitter)

A Toronto councillor is apologizing for almost starting a panda war between Calgary and the Big Smoke.

Coun. Georgio Mammoliti told the Calgary Eyeopener on Thursday that the panda cubs born last fall at the Toronto Zoo were never intended to move to Calgary.

"You're not getting the cubs. Even if you want them you can't get them, they're going back to China in 2018," he said.

Minutes after the interview aired, CBC Calgary received an email from the Calgary Zoo, disputing the councillor's comment.

"Just wanted to clarify that we have a very clear contract that states we will receive both adult pandas from Toronto as well as the two cubs," wrote zoo spokesperson, Trish Exton-Parder.

A Toronto councillor almost started a dust-up with Calgary after stating pandas born at his zoo were never meant to move to the Calgary Zoo in 2018. (David Donnelly/CBC)
The male cub is Jia Panpan (translated to Canadian Hope) and his sister is Jia Yueyue (Canadian Joy). (Toronto Zoo)

Exton-Parder said the contract was signed by the CEO's of the Calgary and Toronto Zoos and the Chinese Government.

Shortly after, CBC Calgary received an urgent call from Coun. Mammoliti, saying that he, the mayor of Toronto and even the Premier of Ontario were misinformed.

"I really apologize. There's been a huge misconception on, I guess, on the interpretation of the language. This was what we all thought was the case here in Toronto."

Shortly after his interview on CBC Calgary's morning show, Coun. Giorgio Mammoliti called back to say he misspoke.

Coun. Mammoliti said Calgary will indeed get the cubs for two years starting in 2018. 

He says he intends to renegotiate the current contract with the Chinese government on behalf of both zoos to keep cubs Canadian Hope and Canadian Joy in Canada "forever."

Newly named twin panda cubs Jia Panpan (meaning Canadian Hope) and Jia Yueyue (Canadian Joy) made their first public appearance at the Toronto Zoo today. 0:59

Coun. Mammoliti's erroneous comments prompted one Calgarian to dust off this sweet 45 rpm released in 1985 to commemorate the visit of Qing Qing and Quan Quan to the Metro Toronto Zoo. 

(Danielle Nerman/CBC)

According to the sleeve, proceeds from the sale of the record went to the China Wildlife Conservation Association to "help save the pandas."

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