Today was a great day! chickaDEE was invited to a birthday party for giant panda TWINS! That’s right, the Toronto zoo’s famous giant panda cubs—Jia Panpan and Jia Yueyue—turned two and they were treated with a bamboo birthday cake and a party with some of their biggest fans in the stands.
chickaDEE also had the chance to speak to Karyn Tunwell, a giant panda keeper at the Toronto Zoo, about the twins.
chickaDEE: What’s it like to raise the only two giant panda cubs born in Canada?
Karyn: It’s a great success story. You always hear how hard it is to breed them in captivity and it really is difficult. But because we have such a great team, we’ve been fortunate to have success doing it.
chickaDEE: What’s the last two years been like?
Karyn: It’s been crazy and a lot of fun and a lot of hard work! For a really long time, we actually had to keep pinching ourselves that we even had giant pandas. In the beginning they were so small and so delicate that we were very cautious around them, and thankfully, we had the Chinese experts to help us out. But as they grew and as they became more robust, it became more like, “Oh, these guys are just great and having a lot of fun.”
Watching Er Shun, their mother, with them, has been one of my favourite things of this whole experience and watching them turn into real pandas. For example, one day something clicked with them and they were like, “We eat bamboo now!” So they don’t play as much as they used to, they just eat bamboo.
chickaDEE: Can you describe their panda personalities?
Karyn: It’s funny. Today Panpan is quite adventurous and Yueyue is more about taking her time. But usually it’s vice versa! I’d love to tell you Panpan is always quiet and reserved and Yueyue is more of a go-getter, but it just keeps flip-flopping. You think it’s one way and they might be like that for a couple of weeks, but then something changes and they become totally different. I think it’ll be hard to say until they become totally mature.
chickaDEE: When do they become adult pandas?
Karyn: Females around 4-5 and males 5-6, so there’s a bit of a difference.
chickaDEE: How long will they stay with their mom, Er Shun?
Karyn: In the wild, they’d be almost gone from their mom now. They’d stay for up to two years. We have the wonderful luxury at the Toronto Zoo to let Er Shun do what she wants with her cubs so we’re following her cues. As long as she’s happy having the cubs around her, we’re going to let her keep them.
Thanks for speaking with us, Karyn. Happy 2nd birthday, Jia Panpan and Jia Yueyue!
The giant pandas will live at the Toronto Zoo until March 2018. After that, they will move to the Calgary Zoo. Want to say happy birthday to the giant panda twins? Leave a birthday wish in the comments below!