Toronto's new giant pandas help charity

CNC report from Toronto
Added On August 6, 2013

The Toronto Zoo on Saturday welcomed a pair of giant pandas from China with a big celebration.

The event also helped raise money for Chinese children in need.

Let's take a look.

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

It was held to celebrate the arrival of the giant pandas, Er Shun and Da Mao.

[STANDUP] PHOEBE HO, 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.”

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne and Chinese Consul-General Fang Li welcomed their 200 guests to the gala at the Toronto Zoo

It'll be Er Shun and Da Mao's temporary home for the next five years.

SOUNDBITE (ENGLISH) FANG LI, Chinese Consul-General:
“The pandas arrive here in April this year and they had a big welcome in the airport. But as a Chinese consulate, the pandas are from China, so the Chinese consulate should do something.”

This is also a celebration of Canada and China's blossoming friendship.

Li notes that the trade volume between the two countries increased by more than 70 billion Canadian dollars last year, while Ontario's exports to China have doubled since 2003.

Wynne says it's important for both sides to keep building on that relationship.

SOUNDBITE (ENGLISH) KATHLEEN WYNNE, Ontario Premier:
“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.”

Other than giving the giant pandas a proper welcome and celebrating the two country's friendship, the gala was also held for a good cause.

Michael Chan, Ontario's Minister of Tourism, says the money raised at the gala will be going towards the Canadian Fund for International Understanding through Culture's Canada-China Book Program.

Books will be donated to schools in Sichuan, home to Da Mao.

SOUNDBITE (ENGLISH) MICHAEL CHAN, Minister of Tourism,Culture and Sport
“This is for the people behind the panda. The people from Sichuan province in China. Yes, panda is China's treasure, talk about 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.

There was also a live auction. Many were eager to place bids to help the cause and support the pandas.

SOUNDBITE (ENGLISH) SHAUNA DANIELS, Guest:
“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 arrived on a special plane to Toronto at the end of March. Now settled into their new home, the pair have been a big draw for the Toronto Zoo, increasing their visitors by almost 10%.

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