Washington National Zoo prepares to say bye-bye to panda Bao Bao

Henrietta Brewer
February 16, 2017

On Feb. 21, Bao Bao will leave the National Zoo in Washington, D.C., and board a FedEx Express plane for China to live out the rest of her life at a panda reserve in the country.

The youngest female panda at the Washington zoo will join others at a breeding facility in China. Bao Bao celebrated her third birthday as part of a triple panda birthday party this past summer.

Bao Bao, who has been living separately from her mother, as pandas do in the wild, for almost two years, underwent a full veterinary exam last week ahead of her flight to China.

The zoo's panda team will continuously monitor Bao Bao during the trip and will travel with a supply of her favourite treats, including bamboo, apples, pears, cooked sweet potatoes and water. All Bao Bao devotees are encouraged to make art and write letters for the panda to enjoy on her long trip to China.

There are an estimated 1,800 giant pandas in the wild, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, which classes them as "vulnerable".

"I came three times every year to see the pandas".

Keepers have trained Bao Bao to acclimate to her travel crate. The zoo recently announced a celebration of Bao Bao starting Thursday in anticipation of her departure. All panda cubs born at the zoo depart to China by the age of 4, and they participate in China's breeding program when they reach sexual maturity at 5 or 6 years old.

On Saturday, Sunday and Monday, she'll eat a heart-shaped ice cake.

Fans can watch Bao Bao and all the festivities on the Zoo's Panda Cam. While the Zoo will be closed to the public, her Zoo departure and Dulles Airport arrival will be available to view on Facebook Live.

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