China’s panda diplomacy has broken up yet another family with 3-year-old Bao Bao being uprooted from her home at the Smithsonian national zoo in Washington, D.C. and being put on a one-way trip to China to get laid.
The beloved panda’s emotional departure was extensively covered by both American and Chinese media. Chinese ambassador to the US Cui Tiankai was also on hand to watch as Bao Bao was packed into a large FedEx crate with 25 kg of bamboo to keep her company.
She was then driven to Dulles International Airport where she was loaded onto a specially chartered cargo plane — aka the “Panda Express” — for a 16-hour non-stop journey to her ancestral homeland.
In China, Bao Bao will join the breeding program at one of panda bases run by the China Conservation and Research Center for the Giant Panda where her mating habits will be watched day and night by diligent researchers and panda voyeurs.
As per agreement with the Chinese government, any pandas born at foreign zoos must be sent to China once they reach the age of three. Obviously, this sudden change of scenery can be tough on the young pandas. Last year, two giant pandas were moved from Atlanta to Sichuan where, like many ABCs, they struggled with adapting to the strange local language and food.
But, this will be hard on the people of Washington as well. After being born in 2014, Bao Bao became one of the zoo’s top attractions, known for her independent nature and adorable antics.
The zoo’s director Dennis Kelly said that for the institution Bao Bao’s departure was a “really bittersweet day.”
“While it represents a huge success, we’ve become so fond of Bao Bao,” Kelly told the Washington Post. “We’re going to miss her so much.”
They grow up so fast.
[Images via Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute]
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