TORONTO, Oct. 18 (Xinhua) -- Gearing up for the arrival of a pair of giant pandas from China this spring, the Toronto Zoo of Canada unveiled its plans for the new giant panda exhibit in a groundbreaking ceremony on Thursday.
Government and zoo officials were on hand for the official launch ceremony at the grounds of the soon-to-be panda enclosure. The ceremony featured a Chinese lion dance, a sneak peak at the future exhibit construction, two panda mascots and a ceremonial planting of bamboo and a red maple tree symbolizing the partnership between Canada and China. It marked the official countdown to the arrival of Er Shun and Ji Li, the two five-year- old pandas.
It is a project over a decade in the making. John Tracogna, the zoo's CEO, said they have been working on getting pandas to Toronto -- the country's largest city located in the province of Ontario -- for nearly 13 years now. But it was Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper who sealed the deal when he paid a state visit to China back in February.
Tracogna says they are getting ramped up as the pair's arrival date quickly approaches.
"It's a milestone," he said. "We hope it will showcase the many facets of the Toronto Zoo in terms of its conservation, research and animal care programs we have here."