National Zoo Says Last Goodbye to Bao Bao

Bao Bao, who is now 3½, will join the giant panda breeding program after she turns 5.

The name "Bao Bao" translates to "precious" or "treasure", which is exactly what this three-year-old panda has been at the Washington Smithsonian's National Zoo. From there, she will take a 19-hour direct flight on a personalized FedEx plane, accompanied by Dearie, a vet. While the Zoo will be closed to the public, her Zoo departure and Dulles Airport arrival will be available to view on Facebook Live.

Chinese embassy chefs will kick off the festivities with a dumpling party for zoo visitors and Bao Bao Thursday morning.

Bao Bao the panda has now left the National Zoo and is currently on a flight that will take her to China.

Washington getting ready to say goodbye to adorable panda Bao Bao.

"Most of the flight, we hope she's going to eat", panda keeper and travel companion Marty Dearie told the Associated Press.

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"All of our fans are very sad to see her go, but we know that this is a really important step for her, giving her the opportunity to return to the breeding center in China and hopefully produce offspring of her own", said Michael Brown-Palsgrove, a giant panda curator. Our team of skilled logistics experts, pilots and drivers are honored to support the efforts to preserve this beloved, rare animal.

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Thompson drives an hour to work and an hour back every day.

She is headed back to her ancestral home due to a longstanding agreement between zoos in China and the United States, and the National Zoo has prepared for her departure since she was born.

The panda is the first surviving cub born at the National Zoo since 2005.

Panda Mei Xiang gave birth to Bao Bao on August 23, 2013, in what turned out to be a successful birth following the death of her 6-day-old panda cub one year earlier. It is not confirmed if Bao Bao will remain at Dujiangyan after the quarantine period has ended.

Zoo officials have a number of events planned for Bao Bao before she travels overseas.

Since then, the two countries have participated in panda loans and exchanges as a gesture of good will. At her first birthday zhuazhou (dra-JO) ceremony, she selected a banner depicting peaches, representing longevity. The Smithsonian's National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute is a leader in giant panda conservation. These experts are also leading ecology studies in giant panda's native habitat.

The panda-fueled relationship between China and the United States began in 1972, when the National Zoo received a gift of two pandas from China following President Richard Nixon's visit, reported CNN. Chinese scientists are working to reintroduce giant pandas to the wild.