Bao Bao Arrived Safely In China And Already Forgot You

Marty Dearie, the giant panda keeper at Smithsonian's National Zoo who accompanied her on her non-stop 16 hour flight on the Panda Express, a custom FedEx 777F aircraft.

Bao Bao - the beloved panda who spent her first 3 year at D.C.'s National Zoo - has arrived at her new home in China. In the week leading up to her departure, the zoo held a series of events, including spectators getting to watch Bao Bao paint, and presenting the panda with her traveling "suitcase" which contained gifts symbolizing her new and old cities.

Caretakers will be on hand to make sure Bao Bao's 8,000-mile journey is a comfortable one.

Bao Bao was born at the National Zoo on August 23, 2013, to parents Mei Xiang and Tian Tian. The staff will feed her bamboo and leafeater biscuits, according to a Washington Post report. She'll be the only panda on the plane, traveling with a keeper and a veterinarian who will monitor her. In time, when she reaches sexual maturity, between 5 and 6 years old, she'll become part of a panda breeding program.

After an online vote, the cub was named "Bao Bao", (pronounced Bow-Bow) which translates as "precious" or "treasure". Giant pandas are endangered, and the program is meant to increase the population. Their third cub, Bao Bao's younger brother Bei Bei, was born in 2015 and will remain at the zoo for now. All pandas born overseas as part of the scheme must return to China before the age of four.

Panda diplomacy is a more political affair than one zoo simply loaning a panda to another. Mei Xiang and Tian Tian are the zoo's second panda pair.

  • Jon Douglas