The zoo’s cooperative breeding agreement with the China Wildlife Conservation Association requires all cubs born at the zoo move to China by the time they turn 4 years old. Bao Bao turns 4 on Aug. 23.
Bao Bao is the first surviving cub born at the zoo since 2005. Older brother Tai Shan left for China in 2010. Their mother, Mei Xiang, has since had a third surviving cub, Bei Bei, who was born on Aug. 22, 2015.
On Feb. 21, a special forklift will transport Bao Bao’s transport crate to a waiting FedEx truck, which will then take her to Dulles International Airport where she’ll board the “FedEx Panda Express” a special Boeing 777 outfitted with custom decals for a nonstop flight to Chengu, China along with a crew of animal-care experts.