BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Bao Bao, the three-year-old panda at the National Zoo in Washington, D.C. will be leaving the U.S. to live in China in two weeks.

On February 21, 2017, Bao Bao will be heading to Chengdu, China by FedEx. A keeper and veterinarian from the National Zoo will accompany her.

As part of the breeding agreement with the China Wildlife Conservation Association, all panda cubs born at the National Zoo must be relocated to China before they turn four-years-old.

The Smithsonian National Zoo is planning a big sendoff for Bao Bao on February 16.

Bao Bao was born at the zoo on Aug. 23, 2014, and the first cub to survive birth since 2005 at the time.

China owns all giant pandas in U.S. zoos and requires that cubs born here be sent “home” about the time they reach breeding age.

“Bao Bao is very special to us at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo,” said Brandie Smith, associate director of animal care sciences. “She was 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.”

Bao Bao has been living apart from her mother, Mei Xiang, since March 2015. Giant pandas are solitary in the wild, and cubs separate from their mothers to establish their own territories between 18 months and 2 years old, the statement said.

Bao Bao’s trip to China will come seven years after the zoo’s giant panda Tai Shan made the trip in February, 2010.

Tai Shan was born at the zoo July 9, 2005, and was the only giant panda born there to survive beyond infancy at the time.

Bao Bao was joined by Bei Bei at the zoo, a male giant panda born there on Aug. 22, 2015.
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