Giant Pandas Help Raise Money For Children

CNC report from Canada
Added On August 5, 2013

As Canada and China celebrated their friendship in a fundraising gala on Saturday, a pair of giant pandas from China find themselves back in the political spotlight.

The gala was held to celebrate the arrival of Er Shun and Da Mao.

It marked the first time the Chinese Consulate in Toronto and the government of the Ontario province has co-hosted an event.

STANDUP: HE XUEYING, CNC correspondent
"Other than their irresistible faces, Er Shun and Da Mao are also a very important symbol of the growing relationship between China and Canada. And tonight, they are once again in the spotlight as the government of Ontario and the Chinese consulate co-hosts a gala in their name."

SOUNDBITE: FANG LI, Chinese Consul-General
"The pandas arrived here in March this year and they had a big welcome at the airport. But as a Chinese Consulate, the pandas are from China, so the Chinese Consulate should do something."

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne and Fang welcomed their 200 guests to the gala at the Toronto Zoo, the two giant pandas' home for the next five years.

During his speech, Fang noted that bilateal trade volume jumped up over 70 billion Canadian dollars last year, while Ontario's exports to China had increased by more than 230 percent since 2003.

Wynne said it was vital to keep building on that momentum, and the giant pandas would be leading the way toward generating a mutualunderstanding of each other's cultures.

"Ontario and China's longstanding friendship is one that I very much want to enhance and increase. We don't want to be picky, we don't want to be 'picky eaters. We want to extend the relationship because it is in everyone's best interest."

Fang and Ontario Minister of Tourism, Culture and Sport Michael Chan said the money raised at the gala would be going toward the Canadian Fund for International Understanding through Culture's Canada-China Book Program.

Books will be donated to schools in China's western Sichuan province, home to Da Mao.

SOUNDBITE: MICHAEL CHAN, Ontario Minister of Tourism, Culture and Sport
"This is for the people behind the panda, the people from Sichuan province in China. China also had many, many challenges, one of those challenge is the natural disaster. We all know that in 2008 the earthquake in Sichuan is just horrible."

Guests at the gala were treated to some special performances and also a live auction, where many were eager to place bids to help the cause, and support the pandas.

"Giant pandas are the cutest animals. I can't think of anyone who doesn't love them, I happen to have three dogs, one is named Bear, after the pandas because she's black-and-white. We call her the littlest bear in the world. They are a worldwide symbol of our need to work to preserve our wildlife habitats. There is a strong conservation community in Canada and in Ontario, and it's a symbol of how we need to support them to continue their tremendous work."

Er Shun and Da Mao were greeted by Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper on the tarmac when they arrived on a special plane late March.

Now settled into their new home, the pair have been a big draw for the Toronto Zoo, increasing their visitors by almost 10 percent.

They will be staying in Toronto for five years, before they head to the Calgary Zoo for the remainder of their 10-year loan.