National Zoo holding events to say goodbye to giant panda Bao Bao

- After spending her entire life at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo in Washington D.C., 3-year-old panda Bao Bao will be heading off to China. The zoo is holding several celebratory events leading up to Bao Bao's departure on Feb. 21.

Bao Bao was born back in August of 2013 and is part of the National Zoo’s cooperative breeding program with the China Wildlife Conservation Association.

“There is a loan agreement,” said National Zoo animal keeper Marty Dearie. “Mei Xiang and Tian Tian, her parents, are here on loan, and that loan agreement stipulates that any cub we have is required to go to China. They can stay here up until they are four years old. She is three and a half years old. It is right in the perfect time for her to head back.”

Bao Bao’s flight to China will be about 16 hours. Since she loves bamboo, they are going to take 50 pounds of it along with sweet potatoes and apples.

“It's not unusual for a wild panda to move a long distance away from their natal area where they were born,” said Dearie.

Joyce Potemkin, a friend of the zoo and a big Bao Bao fan, is sad to see her leave.

“Let Bao Bao stay here,” she pleaded. “She is only the second panda born in the zoo in 50 years that has survived. Let us keep her. Let all of the Chinese come see our Bao Bao.”

Bao Bao is the first surviving cub born at the National Zoo since 2005. Her older brother Tai Shan left the Washington D.C. zoo for China back in 2010. Their youngest sibling, Bei Bei, was born last year in August.

Here is the schedule of events being held for Bao Bao at the National Zoo:

Thursday, Feb. 16

• All Day | @Smithsonian Instagram Takeover
To kick off the farewell, the Zoo's panda team is also taking over the @Smithsonian Instagram account to share a behind-the-scenes look at a day in the life of a giant panda keeper.

• 9:30 a.m. EST | Facebook Live: Painting with Bao Bao
Tune in to the Smithsonian's National Zoo's Facebook page to learn how and why keepers engage giant pandas and other animals in enrichment activities, like painting, to stimulate natural behaviors.

• 10 a.m. EST | Daily Treats: Dumpling Party for Visitors and Bao Bao
Visit the Zoo or tune in to Panda Cam 1 to see Bao Bao receive a “dumpling.” In honor of Bao Bao, the Embassy of China is serving dumplings to panda fans beginning at 10 a.m. In China, dumplings are a must-have food for festivities and a popular food for bidding farewell to loved ones before they leave home. The shape of dumplings also resembles an ancient gold-bar, or “yuan bao," in Chinese which represents perfection and completion.

• 1:30 p.m. EST | Daily Treats: Conservation
Visit the Zoo or tune in to Panda Cam 1 to see the panda team give Bao Bao a special Smithsonian-themed enrichment that represents the Zoo’s global cooperation to save species.

• 3 p.m. EST | Reddit Ask Me Anything: Giant Panda Conservation
Curious about giant panda conservation and the science behind it? Join experts for an online Reddit AMA chat on giant panda reproduction, biology and habitat.

Friday, Feb. 17

• 10 a.m. EST | Daily Treats: FONZ-themed Enrichment
Visit the Zoo or tune in to Panda Cam 1 to watch as Bao Bao receives special themed enrichment acknowledging the 30,000 FONZ member families who support the Zoo's commitment to animal conservation and wildlife research.

• 1:30 p.m. EST | Daily Treats: Bao Bao's Favorites
Visit the Zoo or tune in to Panda Cam 1 to watch Bao Bao enjoy her favorite enrichment items, picked out by her keepers. Tune in to see what they are!

• 3 p.m. EST | Facebook Live: Giant Panda Recycled Art Projects with Friends of the National Zoo
Tune in to the Smithsonian's National Zoo's Facebook page to learn how to make giant panda-inspired crafts with the FONZ education team using items you may already have at home.

Saturday, Feb. 18

• 10 a.m. EST | Daily Treats: Heart-shaped Ice Cake
Visit the Zoo or tune in to Panda Cam 1 to watch Bao Bao enjoy a heart-shaped ice cake made by the Zoo's Department of Nutrition Science. The cake represents global panda fan love. Fans support the Zoo's conservation work to study, care for and help save the giant panda and its native habitat.

• 1:30 p.m. EST | Daily Treats: Treasure Chest Enrichment
Visit the Zoo or tune in to Panda Cam 1 to watch Bao Bao enjoy a “precious treasure” box filled with treats.

Sunday, Feb. 19

• 9:30 a.m. EST | Facebook Live: Training with Bao Bao
Tune in to the Smithsonian's National Zoo's Facebook page to see a training session with Bao Bao. Training helps teach giant pandas specific behaviors, such as how to voluntarily participate in veterinary exams

• 10 a.m. EST | Daily Treats: Ice Cake Favorites
Visit the Zoo or tune in to Panda Cam 1 to watch Bao Bao enjoy a celebratory ice cake treat crafted with her daily food items and prepared by the Zoo's Department of Nutrition Science.

• 11 a.m. EST | Facebook Live: Panda Cam Control Room
Tune in to the Smithsonian's National Zoo's Facebook page to get an inside look at the panda cam control room and meet a specially-trained FONZ volunteer behavior-watcher.

• 1:30 p.m. EST | Daily Treats: Peach-themed Enrichment
Visit the Zoo or tune in to Panda Cam 1 to watch Bao Bao enjoy peach-themed enrichment. In August 2014, the Zoo and the Embassy of the People's Republic of China celebrated giant panda cub Bao Bao's first birthday with a Zhuazhou (dra-JO) ceremony. During a traditional Zhuazhou ceremony, symbolic objects are placed in front of a baby. The item that the baby reaches for first foretells something about his or her future. Three posters with symbols painted on them were placed in Bao Bao's yard. Bao Bao chose the peaches first, which means she will live a long life as an ambassador for panda conservation.

Monday, Feb. 20

• 9:30 a.m. EST | Facebook Live: Packing for Panda
Tune in to the Smithsonian's National Zoo's Facebook page to get a behind-the-scenes look at how the team is getting Bao Bao ready for her trip to China. What do you pack for a panda?

• 10 a.m. EST | Daily Treats: Ice Cake Party
Visit the Zoo or tune in to Panda Cam 1 to watch Bao Bao enjoy a stunning ice cake in the shape of a Chinese pagoda. The cake celebrates of 45 years of collaboration with Chinese colleagues to study, care for and save giant pandas in their native habitat.

• 1:30 p.m. EST | Daily Treats: Suitcase Enrichment
Visit the Zoo or tune in to Panda Cam 1 to watch as Bao Bao receives a “suitcase” with symbols of her hometown and a symbol of her future home in China.

Tuesday, Feb. 21

Please note: The Zoo will be closed to the public on Feb. 21 from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. Please tune in to the Smithsonian's National Zoo's Facebook page to watch live as Bao Bao departs.

• 10:15 a.m. EST | Facebook Live: Bao Bao's Zoo Departure
Tune in to the Smithsonian's National Zoo's Facebook page to watch as Bao Bao departs from the Zoo.

• 1:30 p.m. EST | Facebook Live: Bao Bao at Dulles Airport
Tune in to the Smithsonian's National Zoo's Facebook page to watch as Bao Bao departs Dulles International Airport on the “FedEx Panda Express,” a custom-decaled 777F aircraft.


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