Bao Bao’s Journey Home

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On Feb. 21, panda lovers will be prepared to convey their goodbyes to the giant panda Bao Bao. Bao Bao currently resides at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo, located in Washington D.C. She will be moved to Chengdu, China as part of a program the zoo has with China. Bao Bao, born on Aug. 13, 2013, was the first surviving cub the National Zoo had seen in eight years.

(Photo Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

As part of the program the National Zoo has with the China Wildlife Conservation Association (CWCA), Bao Bao, who weighs 188 pounds, will be moved in a crate to China on Feb. 21 on a FedEx aircraft. Bao Bao will be accompanied by one keeper and veterinarian from the zoo, and they will settle her into the China Conservation and Research Center for the Giant Panda. Since giant pandas prefer colder weather, winter is the best time for Bao Bao’s move.

The CWCA program the National Zoo participates in requires all cubs born at the zoo to move to China by the age of four. Giant Pandas’ conservation status is now listed as “vulnerable,” but the International Union for Conservation of Nature (ICUN), says that they are not safe from threats. The scientists that work in collaboration with zoos in China are trying to reintroduce giant pandas to the wild. Pandas can begin breeding between the ages of four and six.  Bao Bao, who will turn four this month, will breed in China, and her offspring will potentially be reintroduced to the wild.

Bao Bao was separated from her mother, Mei Xiang, since Mar. 2015. When in China, she will not be living with Mei Xiang, since giant pandas live in solitary in the wild. Cubs are separated from their mothers between the ages of 18 months and two years old.

Fans of Bao Bao will be able to see the zoo’s farewell events, which includes an ice cream cake party on Feb. 16 and 20. The celebratory events will also be streamed online on the Smithsonian’s National Zoo’s social media pages.

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