Bao Bao The Panda Begins Journey To China

by Abel Hampton February 24, 2017, 0:15
Bao Bao The Panda Begins Journey To China

"We've watched Bao Bao grow up during the past three years, and she has charmed people all over the world with her independent and playful personality", Dennis Kelly, the director of the Zoo, said in a statement posted to the National Zoo website. The 3-year-old giant panda has left the Smithsonian National Zoo in Washington, D.C., and is flying on a special FedEx aircraft to China.

The cub won't have to worry about finding overhead bin space or dealing with a talkative seatmate on the 16-hour, nonstop flight Tuesday afternoon into Wednesday.

Bao Bao traveled with a keeper and a veterinarian during the flight to China.

In preparation for the trip, keepers have a packing list of Bao Bao's favorite foods including: 55 pounds of bamboo, 5 pounds of apples and 2 pounds of sweet potatoes. Bao Bao will turn 4 on August 23, 2017. There, they will take part in a rigorous breeding program in a bid to boost panda numbers.

Since then, Bao Bao, whose name means "precious treasure" in Chinese, has grown from about the size of a stick of butter to more than 200 pounds.

The panda is the first surviving cub born at the National Zoo since 2005. Giant pandas are no longer considered "endangered" but are a "vulnerable" species in the wild, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

The departure of Bao Bao continues a tradition that began when China gave the national zoo a pair of pandas, Ling-Ling and Hsing-Hsing, following Richard Nixon's historic trip to the country in 1972.

Panda watchers are saying a sad and fond "bye bye" to Bao Bao. Under an agreement forged in the Nixon era, all pandas leased to the USA by China still belong to Beijing, and foreign-born panda cubs, instilled with Chinese panda habits and behaviors, are generally sent there at around four years old to join a breeding program.

But first, a hearty breakfast for the young panda.

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