China has loaned two rare giant pandas to Canada for a research program.

The Chinese Association of Zoological Gardens (CAZG) on Saturday signed an agreement with two Canadian zoos in this regard in Chongqing municipality in southwest China.

The panda pair, both about five years old, will stay in Toronto and Calgary zoos for five years each after they arrive in Canada early next year, Xinhua reported.

The male panda, named “Er Shun”, is from a zoo in Chongqing and the female “Ji Li” lives at a research centre in Chengdu.

Giant pandas are the world’s most endangered species. Currently, only about 1,590 Giant pandas live in the wild, mostly confined to the jungles in south-western China’s Sichuan province. About 300 others have been bred in captivity.

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper witnessed Saturday’s signing ceremony. “They will be the first pair of pandas to visit Canada since the 1980s,” Mr. Harper said.

Mr. Harper arrived in Beijing Tuesday on a five-day trip as a state guest. He held talks with top Chinese leaders and witnessed the signing of several bilateral agreements. He visited the southern economic hub of Guangdong province before heading to Chongqing.