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Protecting the Giant Panda: it's not all black and white

UTSC will host a seminar on giant panda conservation efforts on May 14. (Photo courtesy the Toronto Zoo)

The giant panda is an international symbol of conservation biology. With fewer than 2,000 remaining, the iconic bear continues to capture the hearts and minds of people world-wide.

But what makes giant panda conservation efforts such a challenge? The University of Toronto Scarborough (UTSC) and the Toronto Zoo are partnering to present a scientific seminar that will delve into the issues and provide context ahead of the opening of the giant panda exhibit at the Toronto Zoo. 

The scientific seminar will feature a presentation by renowned giant panda expert Dr. Zhang Dehui from the State People's Republic of China Forestry Administration, followed by a panel discussion involving experts from China and the Toronto Zoo.  

"It's a privilege for UTSC to host this important showcase of giant panda conservation efforts," says Professor Malcolm Campbell, vice-principal, research at UTSC. 

"At UTSC we pride ourselves on being at the forefront of intellectual inquiry to find solutions to tomorrow's most pressing issues, including the conservation of the world's remarkable biodiversity."

The partnership between UTSC and the Toronto Zoo is another example of the growing collaborative ties between the two institutions.

“We are so pleased and honoured to co-host Dr. Zhang and learn all about the amazing conservation efforts currently underway and how Canadian institutions like UTSC and Toronto Zoo can assist in saving this iconic species," says Maria Franke, Curator of Mammals at the Toronto Zoo.

To observe a giant panda in its natural habitat is rare – there are only an estimated 1,600 left in the wild and approximately 300 in captivity – but to have a pair loaned to a local zoo is even rarer.

Enter Er Shun and Da Mao, the two newest additions to the Toronto Zoo.  The pair, who are six and five-years-old respectively, will be on display for five years and the hope is they will breed during their time in Toronto. It will be a difficult task given the giant pandas finicky reproductive cycle, but a challenge the zoo is eager to take on. 

"The Toronto Zoo has been working on conservation breeding and reintroduction programs for numerous Canadian endangered species and it’s so exciting be a part of international conservation efforts for the giant panda,” says Franke.

In addition to the presentation and panel discussion there will be information packages on the giant panda, including videos and photos, while a formal reception will follow in the IC Atrium.

The seminar and reception take place May 14, 2013, from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. in UTSC’s Instructional Centre (I.C. 130). For more information or to RSVP visit,

© University of Toronto Scarborough