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Bye-Bye, Bao Bao: Popular Giant Panda Heads To China This Winter

Bao Bao has been living separately from her mother, Mei Xiang, since March 2015. (Connor Padraic Mallon/The Smithsonian's National Zoo)
Bao Bao has been living separately from her mother, Mei Xiang, since March 2015. (Connor Padraic Mallon/The Smithsonian's National Zoo)

Giant panda Bao Bao, born at the National Zoo in Washington, D.C., in August 2013, will be heading to China this winter.

Bao Bao's parents, Mei Xiang and Tian Tian, are on loan from China, and the agreement calls for any pandas born to the breeding pair to be sent to the Chinese breeding program before they turn 4.

Bao Bao was born in 2013, only the second surviving baby panda ever born at the National Zoo. (Abby Wood/Smithsonian Institution)

Bao Bao's older brother, Tai Shan, made the journey in 2010. Now it will be Bao Bao's turn. FedEx will be flying her to Chengdu "within the first few months of 2017," the National Zoo says.

"Traveling during the colder months mitigates concerns over keeping Bao Bao cool," the zoo says in a press release. "The panda team will continuously monitor Bao Bao during the trip and will travel with a supply of her favorite treats, including bamboo, apples, pears, cooked sweet potatoes and water."

Giant pandas are solitary in the wild, the National Zoo writes, and cubs separate from their mothers to establish their own territories between 18 months and 2 years old. (The Smithsonian's National Zoo)

Before she goes, let's count down Bao Bao's final days with a look back at her greatest hits:

The zoo says there will be a special celebration to say goodbye to Bao Bao before she leaves for China.

The zoo still has one young giant panda, which will remain in the nation's capital for several more years: Bei Bei, who was born last summer.

Copyright NPR 2020.

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