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:

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Bao Bao, The Giant Panda
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Bao Bao, The Giant Panda
Panda Bao Bao eats dumplings during a farewell event at the National Zoo in Washington, DC, February 16, 2017. Bao Bao will soon be moved to China. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein
Panda Bao Bao eats bamboo during a farewell event at the National Zoo in Washington, DC, U.S., February 16, 2017. Bao Bao will soon be moved to China. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein
Bao Bao, a 44-pound female panda bear cub, is seen in the panda exhibit at the Smithsonian's National Zoo in Washington August 23, 2014. REUTERS/David Galen/Smithsonian's National Zoo/Handout ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. EDITORIAL USE ONLY
WASHINGTON, Feb. 16, 2017 -- Giant Panda Bao Bao plays at the Smithsonian's National Zoo in Washington D.C., the Unite States, on Feb. 16, 2017. National Zoo holds a series of online and on-site events to bid farewell to Giant Panda Bao Bao from Feb. 16 to Feb. 20 before it departs for China on Feb. 21. (Xinhua/Yin Bogu via Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, Feb. 16, 2017 -- Giant Panda Bao Bao eats bamboos at the Smithsonian's National Zoo in Washington D.C., the Unite States, on Feb. 16, 2017. National Zoo holds a series of online and on-site events to bid farewell to Giant Panda Bao Bao from Feb. 16 to Feb. 20 before it departs for China on Feb. 21. (Xinhua/Yin Bogu via Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 9: Giant panda Bao Bao will depart the Smithsonians National Zoo for China on February 21, 2017. Bao Bao is pictured in her outdoor yard on Thursday, February 9, 2017. (Photo by Sarah L. Voisin/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
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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.

SEE ALSO: Twin giant panda cubs make their zoo debut

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.

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