Washington National Zoo prepares to say bye-bye to panda Bao Bao

Officials at the Smithsonian National Zoo in Washington prepare giant panda Bao Bao for her trip to China as part of a breeding agreement.

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) Giant panda Bao Bao will leave the National Zoo in Washington, DC next week and move to China under a breeding agreement and officials at the Smithsonian National Zoo are preparing her for the long journey.

Bao Bao, a three-year-old female, who was the first surviving cub born at Smithsonian's National Zoo since 2005, has enchanted zoo visitors and others who watched her via live 'panda cam' footage. She will enter the breeding program for giant pandas under an arrangement between the zoo and the China Wildlife Conservation Association that says all cubs born at the US National Zoo must move to China by the time they turn four years old.

Upon arrival in Chengdu, China she will travel to a facility run by the China Conservation and Research Center for the Giant Panda, accompanied by one keeper and one veterinarian from the National Zoo, officials in Washington said.

 

The zoo's panda team will continuously monitor Bao Bao during the trip and will travel with a supply of her favourite treats, including bamboo, apples, pears, cooked sweet potatoes and water.

Bao Bao must reach sexual maturity, between the ages of five and six years old, before entering the breeding program, the zoo said, and by then she will have acclimated to her new home.

There are an estimated 1,800 giant pandas in the wild, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, which classes them as "vulnerable."

Her brother, Tai Shan, was sent to China in 2010.