Two giant pandas can look forward to some top quality bamboo as they head home to China from Canada which has been suffering from a bamboo shortage.
Calgary Zoo has been trying since May to repatriate Er Shun and Da Mao because the pandemic had hit fresh bamboo supplies in the country.
It has taken many months to secure international travel permits for the two bears.
Calgary Zoo tweeted on Friday: "TODAY is the day the giant pandas head home".
After months of hard work to secure intl permits, TODAY is the day the giant pandas head home! Huge thank you to our partners at @flyyy & International Animal Lounge YYC for being part of the Er Shun & Da Mao’s journey home. Follow along as we #GetThePandasHome! 🐼 #PandaExpress pic.twitter.com/RCICvOekiO— Calgary Zoo (@calgaryzoo) November 27, 2020
Er Shun and Da Mao arrived in Canada in 2014 and were due to stay for 10 years, as part of an agreement between Canada and China.
They had been loaned as a sign of goodwill between the two countries, a gesture sometimes referred to as "panda diplomacy".
According to the zoo, 99% of a giant panda's diet is made up of fresh bamboo and each adult giant panda consumes approximately 40kg (88lbs) of bamboo daily.
The Alberta-based zoo had been importing fresh bamboo from China, but struggled to meet the pandas needs when the coronavirus grounded most flights in March.
In May, the zoo announced it would have to return the two animals four years earlier than planned so that they could enjoy China's abundant supply of fresh bamboo instead.
But in August, the zoo said that, despite working with both the Canadian and Chinese governments, China had not approved international permits due to pandemic-related changes in its import laws and quarantine facilities.
Fresh bamboo could only be reliably sourced from the neighbouring province of British Columbia, and that supply was dwindling fast, the zoo said at the time.
"The continued delays in international permitting is putting the health and welfare of these two beautiful giant pandas in jeopardy," Calgary Zoo president Clément Lanthier said in a statement.
The zoo said on Friday that after "months and months of hard work" it had secured international permits "to get our beloved pandas home to China".
When the Calgary Zoo shared our challenges in getting fresh bamboo shipments for our beloved giant pandas and made the difficult decision to send them home to China 3-years earlier than expected, @Lufthansa_Cargo stepped up to get them home safely. #GetThePandasHome #PandaExpress pic.twitter.com/PAIoY0TG2v— Calgary Zoo (@calgaryzoo) November 27, 2020