Bye bye Bei Bei: Giant panda moving to China in November

A file photo shows Bei Bei celebrating his second birthday Aug. 22 with “panda-friendly” cake and several new toys. (Courtesy Smithsonian National Zoo)

D.C. is a transient city, they warn you.

After four years in the District, beloved giant panda Bei Bei will move to China on Nov. 19, the National Zoo announced Friday.

Bei Bei turned 4 years old in August, and under a cooperative breeding agreement between China and the U.S., that marks the age pandas must move back to China and prepare to breed with other pandas.

Until then, zoo keepers are already getting ready for the big move, making sure Bei Bei is safe and comfortable in his travel crate. While still here in D.C., Bei Bei is getting acclimated to spending short periods of time in the crate. Treats are involved, of course.

Bei Bei won’t be alone during his travels. A panda keeper and a veterinarian will be on board during his nonstop flight on the B777 FedEx aircraft from D.C. to Chengdu, China.

The panda team will monitor Bei Bei during the flight and make sure he gets his favorite treats: bamboo, apples, pears, carrots, cooked sweet potatoes, biscuits and water. Yum!

But no friend moves away from D.C. without a party. Farewell celebrations are scheduled from Nov. 11 through Nov. 18.

“Bei Bei is part of our family,” said Steve Monfort, John and Adrienne Mars director of the Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute.

“Our team has cared for him, learned from him and, along with millions, loved watching him grow. We’re sad he’s leaving, but excited for the contributions he will make to the global giant panda population. Bei Bei is an ambassador for conservation and part of a 47-year program that proves bringing species and habitats back from the brink is possible through global cooperation.”

On that note, let’s take some time to reflect on all the cuteness and joy that Bei Bei has brought through the District.

Like when we captured Bei Bei taking his first steps at the National Zoo. 

Or that one time baby Bei Bei explored the world around him with his mom, Mei Xiang. 

Remember that time Bei Bei had too much fun with his jolly ball? 

And when he took advantage of the snow and enjoyed a wintry frolic. 

Bei Bei even taught us important life lessons during his time in the District: Get back up, even when you fall down. 

Bei Bei, you’ll surely be missed.

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