Spend a few minutes watching the panda bears in their new home at the Calgary Zoo and you know why they are a crowd favourite. Cute and playful, people of any age are drawn to them. That’s why it was a special treat for residents to spend time at the panda enclosure this week. In May, when the $14 million Panda Passage opened, the zoo set an all-time attendance record.
“This was a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” said Garrison Green resident Kay Kuwahara.
The four black and white bears moved to Calgary in March after a five-year stay in Toronto.
The two giant pandas, Da Mao, the male and Er Shun, the female are on a 10-year loan from China. They will call Calgary home for their remaining five-year stay. Er Shun gave birth to Jia Panpan, a male and Jia Yueyue, a female in 2015 in Toronto. Visitors have the chance to see all four at the Panda Passage.
“It was very special to see them today,” said Garrison Green resident Ken Logan. Shirley Norris recently moved to Garrison Green from Toronto. “It was great to see them. I saw pandas in China, but I was very impressed with their surroundings here.”
It’s been 30 years since Calgary last hosted pandas. That was during the 1988 Winter Olympics.
“Getting to see the pandas was a treat in its own right but also a great way to connect with the larger Calgary community through shared experience,” said program development coordinator Monica Schmidt. “Outings such as this one are part of the large number of specialty programs that we offer residents. One of the things that sets United apart is that it’s not just myself or other staff deciding what sorts of programs or outings we’ll run in any given month. Instead, we work closely with our residents to get a feel for what they are interested in and what sorts of experiences they want to have. Because we take the time to get to know our residents on a personal level it becomes possible for our programming to be personally meaningful to the people who choose to make their lives here. From political hot topics to conversation cafes and theatrical performances, everything we plan is both based in and and geared towards our residents’ interests. Today it was pandas at the Calgary Zoo, next week it’s an art gallery excursion to Banff. After that? Well, the residents will let us know!”
United creates seasonal program guides for each of its two communities. The guides each contain more than 30 pages of programs that focus on lifelong learning, music, theatre and the arts.
“The program guides give us an opportunity to highlight our ongoing relationship with our community partners,” said Monica. “We have signed partnerships with about a dozen music, theatre and educational organizations. Truly unique to United is that through these partnerships we are able to give residents access to professional performances out in the community and also bring performers directly into our two communities for one-of-a-kind in-house performances and lectures.”
Photos and video by Sherana Productions
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