Er Shun, chosen by China to be the male half of a giant panda pair appearing at the Toronto Zoo next spring, had a secret - she’s female.
Scientists only discovered this important fact about Er Shun, whose name means “smooth,” after her blood was tested last month in preparation for the endangered mammal’s transport to Canada with Ji Li, a female partner, the zoo announced on Thursday, Dec. 6.
“With younger giant pandas it is more difficult to determine the sex and this is confirmed through genetic testing techniques,” Dr. William Rapley, the zoo’s conservation, education and wildlife director, said in a release explaining why Er Shun was previously thought to be male.
The zoo, after enjoying brief international fame with the 2011 “bromance” of male African penguins Pedro and Buddy, won’t be going with a same-sex panda lineup, however.
The Chinese government is dumping Ji Li and substituting Da Mao, a male panda from Chengdu, to make the long trip to Canada with Er Shun.
Da Mao was born through artificial insemination at the Chengdu Research Base on Sept. 1, 2008 and hand-reared.
“We are appreciative of the fact that the Chinese Association of Zoological Gardens conducted the studies so that the situation can be rectified and we can continue to move forward in smoothly handling this important conservation breeding loan,” Rapley added in the release.
The zoo expects to open its new Giant Panda Exhibit after the Er Shun and Da Mao arrive in March as part of a 10-year loan that includes five-year stays in Toronto and Calgary.