WASHINGTON — If you haven’t seen Bao Bao at the National Zoo, plan your visit now. Within the first few months of 2017, the giant panda will go to China, the National Zoo said.
As part of the zoo’s deal with the China Wildlife Conservation Association, all cubs born at the National Zoo move to China by the time they turn four.
Bao Bao will turn four on Aug. 23, 2017.
Bao Bao’s move to Chengu is part of a cooperative breeding agreement that will allow the panda to start a family of her own.
“She has been weaned from her mother for almost two years now, and so she doesn’t really have anything to do with the other pandas here — pandas are pretty solitary in the wild,” said Brandie Smith, associate director of animal care sciences.
Smith told WTOP that Bao Bao will begin to have cubs of her own once she gets acclimated to the facilities in Chengdu.
Before she leaves, the National Zoo plans to have some special opportunities to see the cub.
“We’re excited for her, sad to see her go, but the great thing with pandas is that we get to celebrate and commiserate with everybody else in Washington D.C.,” Smith said.
The zoo plans to hold events where the public can say goodbye to Bao Bao, and see the other pandas.
Bao Bao has the distinction of being the first surviving cub born at the zoo since 2005.
“She’s captured the hearts of people all over the world who watched her grow up on the panda cams, and she has been an ambassador for conservation. We are sad to see her go, but excited for the contributions she is going to continue to make to the global giant panda population,” Smith said in a release.
Keepers are prepping Bao Bao for the trip by getting her used to being in a travel crate.
A panda keeper and a veterinarian will accompany Bao Bao to China and will stay with her for a short time as she acclimates.
Back in D.C., the National Zoo will gear up for breeding season as Bao Bao’s brother Bei Bei, now over a year old, is weaned.