This morning at 10am ET, the Smithsonian National Zoo in Washington, D.C. says goodbye to Bao Bao, the 3 1/2 -year-old giant panda who will be returning to China.
For those wondering why Bao Bao is returning to China, here's your answer.
Most of the world's giant pandas are on loan to zoos across the world. When those pandas have cubs, they are returned to China before they turn 4 so they can take part in the Chinese breeding program, the most successful panda breeding program in the world.
Bao Bao is only the second surviving panda cub to be born at the National Zoo. Her brother, Tai Shan moved to China in 2010.
At 10am this morning, Bao Bao will be taken from the zoo to Dulles International Airport in Virginia, where she will board a special FedEx plane. She will depart at 1:30pm for the 16-hour nonstop flight to Chengdu, China.
Yesterday, amid a huge crowd of well wishers, Bao Bao received a goodbye cake from the handlers and vets that have cared for her since birth.
Then, her suitcase was packed with special items including:
- 50 pounds of bamboo
- 2 pounds of cooked sweet potatoes
- 2 pounds of apples
- 10 gallons of water
- honey water
- sugar cane
You can watch Bao Bao's Bye Bye on the National Zoo's Facebook page.