Bao Bao the panda is heading to China from the Washington, D.C. National Zoo to take part in a panda breeding program.


Pandas are on the endangered species list and China is currently running a breeding program for pandas. Bao Bao is a 3-year-old cub who was born in America, will take part in the program once Bao Bao reaches sexual maturity, between ages 5 and 6. They flew her now because it is easier to transport pandas during the cooler winter months.

The flight was 16 hours long and went very smoothly, says the panda’s keeper Marty Dearie. “Bao Bao was a real champion during the flight. All the weeks of training and preparation served her really well,” he said. “She’s in excellent hands now and I’m glad I get to transition with our Chinese partners and have my ‘goodbye’ in a couple days.”

The “FedEx Panda Express,” as the custom-decaled plane was called, was stocked with 55 pounds of bamboo, 5 pounds of apples, and 2 pounds of sweet potatoes — Bao Bao’s favorites. “Most of the flight, we hope she’s going to eat,” said Dearie before take off. Pandas spend 13 to 16 hours a day eating.

Bao Bao was born at the zoo in DC on Aug. 23, 2013. She was a delight, as her mother Mei Xiang had only given birth once before, in 2005. She had trouble getting pregnant after that, and lost another cub in 2012. Fittingly, Bao Bao means “previous treasure” in Chinese.

In honor of Bao Bao’s departure, the National Zoo even made her a giant cake, and posted favorite moments of the panda, along with some panda facts, to its Instagram page. See some of the highlights below.

??All the Bao Bao “awwww” moments, now in one video! Learn how you can say #ByeByeBaoBao. Link in profile. @fonznationalzoo

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Cubs stay with their mothers for about 18 months, but giant pandas are solitary as adults. #ByeByeBaoBao #PandaStory @fonznationalzoo

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?Nobody does snow days better than giant pandas. Here’s a look back at #BaoBao’s first blizzard. #ByeByeBaoBao

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?? Bao Bao has landed in China! More details coming soon! #ByeByeBaoBao @fonznationalzoo

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