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Bao Bao the panda departs to new home

The Smithsonian's giant panda cub Bao Bao eats bamboo on her final morning at the National Zoo.

The Smithsonian's giant panda cub Bao Bao eats bamboo on her final morning at the National Zoo. Photo: EPA

Bao Bao, the three-year-old giant panda who rose to fame while growing up on live video at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo in Washington, left for her new home in China under a long-standing breeding and research program.

On Tuesday, Bao Bao could be seen in live video provided by the zoo being loaded, inside her crate, onto a Boeing 777F aircraft at Dulles International Airport in Virginia for Chengdu, China.

Animal keepers wave goodbye to Bao Bao, the beloved 3-year-old panda at the National Zoo in Washington, as she leaves on a one-way flight to China .

Animal keepers wave goodbye to Bao Bao. Photo: EPA

The freighter, customised with an image of a giant panda emblazoned on its side, left on Tuesday afternoon.

“Today is bittersweet,” zoo director Dennis Kelly said in a statement. “We’ve watched Bao Bao grow up during the past three years, and she has charmed people all over the world with her independent and playful personality.”

The giant panda now enters “the next chapter of her life,” Kelly said.

Travelling with Bao Bao will be her handler and veterinarian, as well as 25 kilograms of bamboo and several more of biscuits, sweet potatoes and sugarcane. She will be greeted by her new keepers upon arrival in Chengdu.

Bao Bao was born at the zoo on August 23, 2013 to mother Mei Xiang and father Tian Tian, who were loaned to the zoo as part of an agreement with the Chinese Wildlife Conservation Association.

Bao Bao grew up in public being live streamed at the Smithsonian. Photo: EPA

Bao Bao grew up in public being live streamed at the Smithsonian. Photo: EPA

Under the deal, all cubs born at the National Zoo must move to China by the time they reach four years old for breeding and research.

In the week leading up to her departure, fans were allowed to observe Bao Bao as she was plied with her favourite treats, including ice cakes made of frozen fruit juices and vegetables.

Bao Bao’s younger brother, Bei Bei, who was born in 2015, and their parents will remain at the zoo as part of its breeding program, which runs until December 2020.

 

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