After years of planning, and $100 million in upgrades, the Calgary Zoo announced that it will open the doors to its new state-of-the-art Panda Passage on May 7, 2018.
“Not only is Panda Passage the most unique animal habitat we’ve ever created, but we’ve renovated every corner of the zoo,” says Dr. Clément Lanthier, President and CEO, Calgary Zoo. “Since we expect a 25% increase in the number of visitors in the first year of the pandas’ five-year stay, we needed to make necessary changes to specific areas of the park to create an amazing experience for our guests.”
The opening of giant pandas culminates four years of significant projects stretching across the zoo. One of the key projects was the opening of an $8 million Land of Lemurs habitat in 2017 which added 1.3 acres on the east end of zoo island. Also nearing completion are a new suspension bridge, upgraded and new food concessions, new wayfinding system, widened pathways, an expanded parking lot with fully automated parking payment system and new play features in Prehistoric Park and Canadian Wilds. In addition, visitors will discover improved animal welfare and animal viewing experiences at lions, whooping cranes and grizzly bears. Other related City of Calgary upgrades include the completion of the extensive flood mitigation project, replacement of the 12th Street bridge and widening of Zoo Road.
Lanthier says the May 7 opening promises to be a particularly emotional moment for the zoo’s more than 350 employees and 470 volunteers, coming just one month before the fifth anniversary of the catastrophic 2013 flooding, which closed most of the zoo for several months and destroyed many buildings.
“It has been a long road. We are very grateful for the support of our community, our members, our sponsors and donors and government,” Lanthier says. “Now we’re ready to reintroduce our community to a transformed world-class zoo that we are all extremely proud of.”
The arrangement to bring the giant pandas to Calgary was part of an international agreement signed in 2012 led by the governments of China and Canada. The panda habitat, located at the heart of the zoo, promises to be one of the best animal facilities of its kind in the world. The building has been refurbished from the former Eurasian Gateway facility utilizing innovative sustainable design practices, following the Living Building Challenge.
Already Canada’s most visited zoo, with nearly 50% of its guests being tourists, the zoo expects to host 1.5 million visitors in the first full year of pandas, creating an $18 million economic impact for Calgary.
The ultimate goal of Panda Passage is to attract an even larger audience to hear the zoo’s message about wildlife conservation, says Lanthier.
“This summer we will be asking every visitor to pledge to make a difference for animals in the wild,” Lanthier says. “Our hope is to inspire our guests to steps, whereever possible, be it small or big, in their own lives to have a greater impact on wildlife around them.”
The Calgary Zoo has established itself as one of Canada’s leaders in wildlife conservation. In 2017, the zoo invested $3.6 million in conservation programs in Canada and around the world.
Click here for more updates on the Calgary Zoo’s Panda Passage or watch the video below to look back at the first giant panda visit to Calgary in 1988.