Cute COVID-19 Connections

Throughout this pandemic we’ve been uplifted by inspiring reunions. Be it a family who struggled to get home after flights were cancelled or true love separated by a closed international border, we’ve watched these stories unfold and relished the happy ending.

In late November, Albertans got the warm fuzzies once again thanks to a pair of pandas in a difficult predicament. Er Shun and Da Mao had been on loan to the Calgary Zoo since May 2018. The plan was always to return the duo to China after a substantial five-year visit and perhaps a couple of cubs, but when COVID-19 happened, the timeline was expedited due to difficulty procuring a steady supply of quality bamboo.

The panda diet consists almost entirely of the fresh tree-like grass. With most commercial flights grounded, and supply chains stretched, zoo staff were getting increasingly concerned.

The ability to maintain the required twice weekly fresh bamboo deliveries from China during the second wave of COVID-19 was looking more and more challenging. Plus the pandas were particular. Not only did each animal require 40lbs of bamboo per day, they’d regularly turn up their noses at offerings that had aged in transit and become too dry.

As plans to get the voracious eaters back to China began to take shape, it became apparent that this trip would be more complex than usual. In addition to 100lbs of bamboo, apples, pears and biscuits for in flight snacking, the zoo had to organize international permits and ensure that the panda team overseeing the journey had a clean bill of health. That’s where DynaLIFE stepped in.

“We’ve completed a lot of priority testing over the last six decades, but I can’t say an endangered species emergency has ever been on the list,” jokes DynaLIFE Chief Executive Officer, Jason Pincock. “It was definitely an honour to play a small part in this important panda operation.”

DynaLIFE was responsible for providing the required COVID-19 outbound travel testing per the requirements for entry into China for Calgary Zoo Animal Care team members Cissy and Margaret whom spent 14-days quarantining in China once they arrive, and another 14-days quarantining in Canada once they return.

“Over the last nine months, we’ve all witnessed the evolution of this disease and seen the impact on communities around the world,” says Pincock. “Our labs have been working tirelessly to support increasing diagnostic testing needs and to meet the healthcare needs of Albertans.”