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  1. ITV Report

Panda pair fly 'first class' to begin new life in Canada

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper (R) welcomes the new arrivals at Pearson International airport in Toronto Photo: REUTERS/Fred Thornhill

A panda couple have become instant celebrities in Canada after touching down in the country in a bespoke jet carrying their picture on the fuselage.

The pair arrived from Chengdu in China to start a new life at Toronto Zoo, where it is hoped they will settle down and start a family.

Er Shun and her companion Da Mao were specially selected for the 13,000km journey because they are a strong genetic match.

The 'Panda Express' taking off from Chengdu in China Credit: FedEx

They were greeted on the runway by Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his wife Laureen, and a large crowd of Canadians.

Speaking soon after their arrival, Prime Minister Harper said he was "truly delighted" to welcome two of China's "national treasures" to his country.

One of the pandas in the specially-designed panda enclosure Credit: FedEx

According to the haulage firm tasked with moving them, the pair flew "first class" and were treated to complementary snacks throughout their 15-hour flight.

Our goal is to have the pandas’ travel be as comfortable as possible.

The on-board vet and two attendants will have constant access to the pandas at all times during the flight [except] during take-off and landing where the attendants are required to be safely seated with seatbelts on.

– FedEx

In order to keep their guests well-fed, 250kg of bamboo and bamboo shoots were carried on board as well as 50kg of apples and 15kg of fresh water.

Watch this video about the making of the 'Panda Express':

The new arrivals were taken from the airport straight to a quarantine area where they will remain for at least 30 days to give vets a chance to monitor their health.

They will spend the next five years at Toronto Zoo, before moving to Calgary Zoo for another five years.

It is hoped that they will produce offspring during this period, although this is far from guaranteed since pandas are notoriously slow pro-creators.

Da Mao begins his journey from China to Canada Credit: FedEx

Their arrival is the culmination of ten years of diplomacy between Canada and China.

Toronto Zoo's website carried an enormous picture of the new arrivals above the headline: "The wait is finally over".

It described the pandas' arrival as "an exciting next step in this historic Canadian milestone".