Bao Bao, the National Zoo’s 3-year-old female giant panda, will be shipped to China on Feb. 21, the zoo said Monday.
The move is part of a long-standing arrangement with China, whereby any giant panda cubs born in the United States must go to China around age 4. China owns all giant pandas in the United States and leases them to American zoos.
Bao Bao will be 4 on Aug. 23. In China, giant pandas participate in a breeding program when they reach sexual maturity, between 5 and 6 years old, the zoo said.
The zoo said Bao Bao will travel via FedEx “Panda Express” from Dulles International Airport and will first go into quarantine at the China Conservation and Research Center for the Giant Panda, in Dujiangyan, Sichuan province.
The zoo will have online and in person programs to mark her departure.
Bao Bao was born at 5:32 p.m. Aug. 23, 2013, as thousands of people watched on the zoo’s panda cams. Her mother, Mei Xiang, had five false pregnancies between 2007 and 2012, and in 2012 delivered a female cub that died six days later. That cub had underdeveloped lungs that led to liver problems.
Bao Bao is the second giant panda to be sent to China after being born at the National Zoo. The first was Tai Shan, a male, who was born July 9, 2005. He was moved to China in 2010. He is now 11.
The zoo has three other giant pandas: a male cub, Bei Bei, 1; an adult female, Mei Xiang, 18; and an adult male, Tian Tian, 19.