Calgary

Pandas propel Calgary Zoo to all-time attendance record for May

The recent arrival of the pandas has helped boost attendance at the Calgary Zoo to record levels, officials say.

190,067 people came through the gates last month

The Calgary Zoo's Panda Passage exhibit opened to the public in May. (Monty Kruger/CBC)

The recent arrival of the pandas has helped boost attendance at the Calgary Zoo to record levels, officials say.

The zoo counted 190,067 visitors last month, eclipsing the previous May record of 147,285 that was set in 2003, the year Destination Africa opened.

"Panda Passage is off to a great start," said customer experience director Lindsey Galloway in a release Wednesday.

 "We are also selling record numbers of memberships — in fact, we now have 90,000 active members. The support from our community is astounding — it makes our critical wildlife conservation work possible."

The $30-million exhibit opened on May 7.

The four pandas — Da Mao, Er Shun and her two cubs, Jia Panpan and Jia Yueyue — are living in a specially constructed habitat that contains flowing water, trees and plants. 

Under an agreement with China signed in 2012, the pandas spent five years at the Toronto Zoo and will spend the next five years in Calgary.

In an effort to get visitors to come on less busy days, the zoo has introduced variable pricing, with higher ticket prices on the weekends.

Visitors can also buy timed tickets online, with a specific time to see the pandas, to cut down on wait times at the gate.

In order to offset the costs associated with the pandas — which total about $1.5 million per year — the zoo hopes to see an increase of 15 per cent in annual visitors, for a total of 1.5 million people. 

Clarifications

  • An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated it costs $1.5 million annually to feed the pandas. In fact, that is the total, estimated cost of their care.
    Mar 06, 2019 2:03 PM MT

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