Calgary Zoo panda upgrades to cost $16M, city seeks $8M from province

Calgary will ask the province for half the cash to upgrade a temporary panda enclosure at the Calgary Zoo.

Four pandas, including two born in October at the Toronto Zoo, are heading to Calgary in 2018

This pair of panda cubs was born in October at the Toronto Zoo. The male cub is Jia Panpan (translated to Canadian Hope) and his sister is Jia Yueyue (Canadian Joy). The siblings and their parents are set to move to the Calgary Zoo in 2018. (David Donnelly/CBC)

Calgary will ask the province for half the cash to upgrade a temporary panda enclosure at the Calgary Zoo.

The project is expected to cost $16.3 million, and the zoo and its supporters would have to come up with the other half of the cost.

In the spring of 2018, Calgary is expected to receive four giant pandas — two of them just recently born — that are on loan from China and currently residing at the Toronto Zoo. 

Coun.Gian-Carlo Carra, whose Ward 9 includes the zoo, said he's "very supportive" of the project. 

"We also have a great master plan for the zoo and this dovetails into it so this is not just for the pandas," he said. "This is about revamping and putting the zoo on a long term great track."

A city committee green-lighted the request for provincial funding Wednesday.

The last time pandas came to the Calgary Zoo was in 1988, and the eight-month exhibit was credited with boosting visitation by 70 per cent over the previous year.

"Aptly named 'Panda Magic' at the time, the excitement began well before the pandas arrived and grew throughout their stay," reads a report presented to city councillors.

The project also includes a planned restoration and widening of a vintage swinging bridge north of the exhibit area that has been closed since 2012. That accounts for $1.4 million of the project's $16.3-million total cost, according to city estimates.

The new panda enclosure would also be protected by flood mitigation projects, which are expected to be complete by late 2017, Carra noted.


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