McMaster University donates excess bamboo to pandas at Toronto Zoo

Nadine Kalinauskas

Excess bamboo from McMaster's Biology Greenhouse is no longer ending up in the compost pile. Instead, it's feeding the Toronto Zoo's famous imports: giant pandas Er Shun and Da Mao.

About three times a year, Arthur Yeas, a technician at McMaster University's Biology Greenhouse, had been cutting back his fast-growing collection of golden bamboo and disposing with the excess.

Now that pandas are in the area, the university will be shipping the excess bamboo to the Toronto Zoo instead.

The zoo's picky giant pandas go through more than 100 pounds of bamboo, sent in from Tennessee twice a week, each day.

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About 70 per cent of the bamboo they're offered gets tossed aside.

"They'll pick up a piece, smell it, then if they like it they’ll take a bite, but they might also just put it aside...they're bad boys," Zoo nutritionist Jaap Wensvoort told the Hamilton Spectator.

The bamboo from McMaster is "the freshest meal they'll get," Yeas said.

Karen Alexander, lead hand at the Toronto Zoo's Wildlife Nutrition Centre, said that the rhinos and elephants will also benefit from the school's bamboo surplus.

"The pandas love the leafy greens and shoots, and we can give some of the stalks to the elephants," she said, adding that zoo staff fill the hollow stalks with elephant treats.

According to McMaster's Daily News, McMaster's donation of a half-ton of bamboo stalks is the zoo's largest since Er Shun and Da Mao's arrival in March.

While McMaster can't provide enough bamboo to replace the costly shipments from the Memphis Zoo, the contribution is still a valuable one for the Toronto Zoo.

"It is fantastic because if something happens with our transportation...or there's a strike, or there’s a flood...we love that we can give Arthur a call and say 'Hey, can we please get some of your bamboo?'" Wensvoort said.

Yeas said that if the zoo wants it, he'll continue offering the excess bamboo:

"Fresh bamboo is worth its weight in gold, when it’s for the pandas."