Bye-bye, Bao Bao: Washington's giant panda leaves for China with 55 pounds of bamboo in her suitcase
Bye-bye, Bao Bao.
Bao Bao, one of the Smithsonian National Zoo's giant pandas, is scheduled to take a flight to China Tuesday morning as part of a cooperative breeding program between the zoo and the China Wildlife Conservation Association.
The beloved panda, who was born at the zoo in August of 2013, will turn 4 this year.
"Bao Bao is very special to us at the Smithsonian's National Zoo," Brandie Smith, associate director of animal care sciences, told the Washington Post in a statement.
See photos of Bao Bao:
Smith said that Bao Bao has "captured the hearts of people all over the world who watched her grow up on the panda cams, and she has been an ambassador for conservation."
"We are sad to see her go, but excited for the contributions she is going to continue to make to the global giant panda population," Smith said.
Before her travels Monday, the zoo held a public event to "say goodbye and celebrate" before Bao Bao left for China.
Bao Bao enjoyed a celebratory ice cake treat prepared by the Zoo's Department of Nutrition Science before leaving and received a "suitcase" with memories of her hometown and a symbol of her future home in China.
Since Bao Bao loved bamboo, the zoo staff padded the plane with 50 pounds of the perennial plant along with apples and sweet potatoes.
Bao Bao is the zoo's first surviving panda cub since 2005. Bao Bao's older brother, Tai Shan, left the zoo to go to China in 2010 and her youngest sibling, Bei Bei, was born there in August 2015.